RCEP diplomats emphasize benefits of trade pact
Diplomats from six Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member countries emphasized that their trade pact will be beneficial for all 15 members at the Korea-Asean RCEP Forum, with Korea positive about joining more trade agreements with Asean countries.
"As a small country, our trade is still minimal and RCEP will open up more opportunities for us to reach into the supply chain and provide trading of goods and services to other countries," said Chring Botumrangsay, Cambodian ambassador to Seoul, during a panel discussion at the event. "We're looking at one-third of the population with RCEP, and that is a large population that we can benefit from."
Ambassadors and diplomats from six Asean member countries — Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore — discussed benefits of the trade pact at the Korea-Asean RCEP Forum held at the Westin Josun Seoul, in central Seoul, on Tuesday.
Gandi Sulistiyanto, Indonesian ambassador to Korea, said he expects RCEP to allow more investment in his country, especially for downstream products and commodities.
The country passed a regulation that obliges all raw materials from Indonesia to be processed in the country. Indonesia welcomes Korean companies to purchase its minerals while the country enjoys investments in manufacturing plants or added jobs.
The situation is similar in the Philippines. The country lifted a ban on open pit mining in December last year, and is looking for companies to invest, come to the country and mine raw materials in a sustainable way.
Witchu Vejjajiva, Thai ambassador to Korea, emphasized he is looking forward to tariff reductions and eased customs, which would allow Korea to import products from his country at cheaper prices.
It expects about 40,000 Thai products to be impacted by tariff reductions and about 30,000 to have no customs duties at all. RCEP member countries are considering making the customs clearance process faster for perishable goods — or food products that can easily rot — from the current 48 hours to 6 hours, which will be another huge benefit.
"This is an opportunity that Korea could consider given the supply chain disruption in food due to the Russian Ukraine crisis and the Covid-19 situation," said Vejjajiva. "Korea could probably import food from Southeast Asia including Thailand with more competitive prices and probably minimize dependency on food imported from elsewhere."
With many benefits expected, Korea plans to join more mega-regional trade pacts. It joined the RCEP trade pact in February.
"We plan to actively utilize RCEP and also push to join the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership] and IPEF [Indo-Pacific Economic Framework]," said Chun Yoon-jong, Deputy Minister for Trade Negotiations during a speech separate from the panel discussion. "Those mega free trade agreements all emphasize Asean relations and Korea plans to increase cooperation with Asean countries."
Many RCEP member countries such as Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are also part of the IPEF.
"There is a possibility of small and medium countries from the RCEP joining the framework in order to have some say or influence in the rule making process, so joining sooner rather than later is a good strategy not only for Vietnam, but also for other Asean countries," said Nguyen Vu Tung, Vietnamese ambassador to Korea.
Adrian Li, deputy chief of mission and counselor at the Singapore Embassy in Korea, was also positive about IPEF.
"In particular, it covers cooperation in digital economy and the green economy, which shows a lot of promise of growth," said Lim. "It's particularly important the IPEF remains open, inclusive and flexible."
In addition to Asean ambassadors and embassy dignitaries, some 100 people from leading Korean and foreign companies that have been increasing their business portfolios in Asean markets attended the event.
Participants include directors and executives from LG Energy Solutions, Samsung Electronics, SK hynix, Samsung C&T, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, CJ, Shinsegae, SPC Group, KT&G, Korean Air Lines, Asiana Airlines, Amorepacific, KT, LG U+, SK Telecom, Hanhwa Defense, Naver and Kakao Entertainment. Officials from financial companies such as Hana Financial Group, KB Financial Group, Shinhan Financial Group, Woori Financial Group and Mirae Asset and Armco also attended.
BY LEE TAE-HEE [email@example.com]