Japan pushes to conclude RCEP by 2018, but slow progress

March 8, 2018: After Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiators met in Singapore this week to continue talks, ASEAN sources have told journalists that they are working towards a ‘substantial conclusion’ in 2018.

Although key differences remain on issues like medicine monopolies and investment rules, Japan insists that it is possible to reach an agreement before the end of 2018. Japan Times reports that Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said this push ‘is based on the premise that a certain degree of market access will be guaranteed.’

In a joint statement issued after the talks, RCEP Ministers reported progress on tariffs, and ‘growing convergence’ on differences over investment. They ‘recognized the divergence in the levels of ambition in some areas’, and called on negotiators to find ‘creative, innovative and pragmatic landing zones’ to settle these differences.

There will be two further meetings between RCEP negotiators in April and June, and another ministerial meeting in July before the ASEAN economic ministers’ meeting in August.