International Current Affairs 2018

5th RCEP intersessional ministerial meeting held in Tokyo, Japan

The 5th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) intersessional ministerial meeting was held in Tokyo, Japan. It was first RCEP ministerial gathering to be held outside ASEAN countries. It was co-chaired by Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing and his Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko.

Key Facts

During the meeting, ministers from member countries had in-depth discussions on issues such as trade, service, investment and rules at the meeting. They recognized importance of early conclusion o RCEP negotiations consistent. They also reaffirmed their resolve to work together and achieve agreement that will allow economies of different levels of development to actively participate in and benefit from open and inclusive regional economic integration.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

RCEP is a proposed proposed free trade agreement (FTA) or comprehensive regional economic integration agreement between the 10-ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and its six FTA partners (Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan and Korea).

Its negotiations were formally launched at 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Till 2017, 16 RCEP member states accounted for population of 3.4 billion people with total GDP (in terms of PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 38% of the world’s GDP (combined GDPs of China and India makes up more than half that amount) and 29% of world trade. RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement that includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.

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India to provide tariff concessions on 3,142 items to APTA members

India has agreed to provide tariff concessions on 3,142 products to Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) members, from July 1, 2018. The tariff concessions are implementation of results of fourth round of negotiations under APTA, which were formally concluded and signed by the ministers of member countries during meeting of APTA Ministerial Council in January, 2017.

Key Facts

With this implementation of the Fourth Round, the coverage of preferences of total tariff lines for each member will come of 10,677 tariff lines (up from 4,270 items at conclusion of 3rd Round). It will also deepen average Margin of Preference (MoP) being provided under agreement to 31.52%. The LDC members are entitled to greater concessions on 1,249 items with average MoP of 81% under special and differential treatment provisions of APTA.

Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA)

APTA is an initiative under United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) for trade expansion through exchange of tariff concessions among developing country members of Asia Pacific Region. It is preferential trade agreement (PTA), under which basket of items as well as extent of tariff concessions are enlarged during trade negotiating rounds which are launched from time to time.

APTA was signed in 1975 and was formerly known as Bangkok agreement (renamed to present name in 2005). UNESCAP’s Trade and Investment Division in Bangkok, Thailand serves its secretariat. It is the first plurilateral and oldest preferential trade agreement among developing countries in Asia-Pacific .The six member countries of APTA are Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, Korea and Sri Lanka.

APTA aims to promote economic development through adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade expansion and provides for economic integration through coverage of merchandise goods, services, investment and trade facilitation.

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