Via China Daily

Ships get ready for their voyages in the foreign trade container terminal of Qingdao port in Shandong province. [Photo by Yu Fangping/For China Daily]

MANILA – An emerging mega trade deal among 15 Asia-Pacific countries will be a “gamechanger” for closer economic integration between China and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has said.

In a forum held in Guangzhou, China over the weekend, Dominguez said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is crucial to the region’s collective quest for steady high growth and accelerated poverty reduction for its peoples.

He added RCEP will not only spell greater synergy for China-ASEAN cooperation but will also ensure that the region continues to be a growth leader in the face of increasing trade protectionism in the West that threatens global prosperity.

“The RCEP, which we support with vigor, will be the centerpiece of our collective efforts to build beneficial multilateral partnerships. The well-developed relationship between China and the ASEAN form the core of this emerging partnership,” Dominguez said at the session of the International Finance Forum (IFC) on National and Regional Cooperation: China-ASEAN Financial Cooperation held in Guangzhou over the weekend.

He said the Philippines has adopted a more forward-looking policy towards China because the government “understand(s) the great synergy that will be generated by the closer partnership between our two countries.”

“The opportunities that unite us are far greater than the issues where we might have some differences,” Dominguez added.

Dominguez said ASEAN and China continue to show resilience and dynamism in the midst of a global economic slowdown, owing to a broad consensus among these economies that free trade and the efficient movement of capital, goods and services is “the correct way to go” in ensuring that the region continues to be among the world’s growth leaders.

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Poised to become the world’s largest trade agreement when plans proceed to formalize it next year, the RCEP involves the 10 ASEAN members – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – and its five major trading partners, namely, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Dominguez said Manila looks forward to the finalization of agreements for the RCEP.

“With this framework for enhancing trade and investment, the development of the economies of the region will be further enhanced. We will be able to build a sanctuary for free trade and investment cooperation against the forces of protectionism elsewhere,” he said, adding RCEP “will be a major force shaping the development of the world’s economy.”

He said “the prosperity and well-being of billions of people in our region will depend on how we can foster growth through increased connectivity and increased integration of our economies.”

He said the Philippine government appreciates China’s support for building institutions for open trade and investments in ASEAN – as demonstrated by the signing of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, one of the first free trade pacts that the regional bloc had signed with its major trading partners.

The success of this free trade deal is proven by the fact that for 10 consecutive years, China has emerged as the ASEAN’s biggest trading partner, with total trade growing at an average of 10 percent per year since 2009, Dominguez said.

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