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|The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement is signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries on November 15 at an ceremony virtually hosted by Vietnam. (Photo: AFP)|
Jakarta – The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement is ASEAN’s most outstanding achievement this year, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN Ambassador Ade Padmo Sarwono said in an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA)’s correspondent in Jakarta on November 18.
“RCEP should not be viewed simply as a trade agreement, but as a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement that contribute to regional political security and stability, and reinforces ASEAN centrality in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
The diplomat noted the trade pact was originally proposed by Indonesia during ASEAN Chairmanship in 2011. Indonesia was the Chairman of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC), and after an eight-years long of relentless negotiations, it was finally signed on November 15.
According to the representative, the RCEP is the biggest trade agreement in the world with GDP accounting for 30.2 percent of of global GDP. It is also the most extensive free trade agreement to date which covers a great deal of essential trading and business issues, such as goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, disputes settlement, e-commerce, and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
“The negotiation was successfully concluded after a grueling eight-year process and the pact was finally signed in the most challenging time made RCEP stands out even more as the most rewarding achievement,” Sarwono said.
He further said that the RCEP is the latest example of ASEAN’s long-term, staunch commitment to open regionalism and regional integration. Since the 1980s, and even more so following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, ASEAN’s response to both regional and global political and economic turmoil has been to double down and strengthen its integration efforts.
“With this agreement, Indonesia hopes it can create a favorable environment for economic and trade relations in the Indo-Pacific region as well as for contributing to economic recovery efforts,” the diplomat said.
He described the results of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings as “very essential” and “timely,” given that the summit was held in the midst of COVID-19 which has significantly affected people’s lives, health and well-being, and exerted severe pressure on the world and regional economy.
The ambassador suggested ASEAN to start to implement the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) which contained various immediate and integrated efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on health and safety, while at the same time conducting economic recovery and maintaining supply chains and connectivity in the region.
Within the framework, Indonesia has proposed an ASEAN Declaration on ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework to facilitate essential business travels among its member states while prioritizing public health safety, particularly in controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus without precluding the application of the framework to other categories of travel in the future. The Declaration has been adopted by ASEAN leaders at 37th Summit on November 13. Indonesia expects the Framework could be finalized in the first of next year so it can revive the regional economic interaction and then ASEAN citizens can travel again.
Sarwono went on to say that Vietnam has done its utmost efforts to execute the role as ASEAN Chair 2020 amid the unprecedented situation.
He urged ASEAN to maintain its cohesiveness and unity in the midst of global rivalry in the coming years. ASEAN also needs to maintain its centrality in all ASEAN led-mechanism, and must be firm in its principles including those outlined in the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, he added.
“We must be able to response in a unison to regional and global challenges. Together we are stronger, and I believe with the spirit of togetherness, cohesiveness, ASEAN can response and overcome any kind of challenge lie ahead of it in the future,” the diplomat stressed.