Monday’s Yomiuri wrote that the 16 members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reached agreements in eight more sectors at their ministerial meeting on Saturday in Bangkok, meaning that they have now reached accords in 18 of the approximately 20 areas under discussion. The paper speculated that although the nations did not specify which eight areas the agreements covered, they probably focused on such issues as tariff cuts and rules on trade and investment. The paper asserted that the RCEP nations have made major progress toward their goal of concluding their negotiations this year. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Sugawara, who participated in the ministerial meeting, told reporters afterward: “Finally, we are now only one step away. We will endeavor to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year by reaching agreement on the remaining issues.” The paper wrote that the RCEP member states are hoping to announce the conclusion of their negotiations at their leaders’ meeting slated for early November after holding additional working-level discussions and another ministerial meeting.
The paper wrote that attention is focused on the moves of China and India because India is worried that a large volume of Chinese industrial and farm products will flow into the nation if it accepts major tariff cuts. The paper added that there is also concern that the strained relations between Japan and South Korea may have a negative impact on the RCEP negotiations.
However, Sankei ran a Kyodo story claiming that the RCEP nations did not issue a joint statement at their ministerial meeting in Bangkok because they failed to reach agreements on key issues such as tariffs and investment. Kyodo said it remains to be seen whether they will be able to achieve their goal of concluding their negotiations at their leaders’ meeting in early November. Kyodo quoted Trade Minister Sugawara as telling the press: “We welcome the major progress made in a number of areas, but some difficult issues still need to be settled. As for whether the negotiations will be concluded, it depends on whether we can find common ground on the difficult issues in the remaining period.”