Singapore, Nov. 13 (Jiji Press) — Japan and 15 other Asia-Pacific countries may achieve high-level liberalization standards for services trade under the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade pact, Jiji Press learned on Tuesday.
The development came as the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that are taking part in the RCEP talks have changed their strategy on services trade, informed sources said.
The ASEAN members, mostly developing countries, were previously cautious about drastic liberalization in services trade, but they agreed on Monday to revise their trade rules, opening the way for changing their approach, the sources said.
The ASEAN countries have been using the so-called positive list method, asking members to specifically list which services they agree to liberalize.
They now plan to shift to the negative list method, requiring them to liberalize all services trade basically, while allowing them to designate exemptions, the sources said.
The negative list approach, which is believed to be more transparent than the positive list method, has been adopted by Japan and 10 other countries that concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. China is also using the negative list method for its trade negotiations.
A senior official of an RCEP negotiating country said that ASEAN’s shift to the negative list method could contribute to the RCEP talks.
The 16 countries that are negotiating the RCEP pact are expected to give up their goal of reaching a substantial conclusion by the end of this year, due chiefly to differences over tariff abolition and reductions.
At their summit meeting set for Wednesday in Singapore, leaders of the 16 countries are likely to agree to conclude their RCEP negotiations in 2019.
The 10 ASEAN nations are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. The 16 RCEP countries also include China and India.