ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn expressed optimism with the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in a transparent manner, as businesses in the region have wider opportunities to trade and invest now.

RCEP is a multilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between 10 ASEAN member states and five FTA partners - Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea.

Kim Hourn said this at the second RCEP ministers’ meeting on the final day of the 55th ASEAN economic minister and related meetings on August 21 in Semarang, Indonesia.

The meeting exchanged views on the implementation of the RCEP agreement and welcomed the progress in the establishment of the RCEP support unit.

ASEAN alongside Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand gathered in the second RCEP ministers’ meeting, co-chaired by Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Trade of Indonesia and Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.

The meeting also welcomed the entry into force of the RCEP agreement for Indonesia and the Philippines, on Jan 2, 2023 and June 2, 2023, respectively, according to a joint media statement by the RCEP ministers.

“The meeting endorsed the terms of reference of the RCEP support unit and the funding arrangement of the RCEP support unit. The meeting tasked officials to ensure that the RCEP support unit starts its operation in 2024,” it said.

The meeting also noted the progress of the work of the RCEP joint committee and its subsidiary bodies in the implementation of the RCEP agreement and encouraged the officials to continue their work to ensure the transparent, smooth and effective implementation of the agreement.

Meanwhile, the ministers requested other subsidiary bodies to convene their meetings as soon as possible, to review the implementation of the RCEP agreement and advance relevant cooperation.

They also reaffirmed the importance of the economic and technical cooperation under the RCEP agreement to assist parties in implementing their commitments for better utilisation of the RCEP agreement.

In that, progress has been made in the discussions pertaining to the procedures for accession to the RCEP agreement.

Reaffirming that RCEP is an open and inclusive regional engagement, the meeting encouraged the RCEP joint committee to continue its discussion, with a view to achieving accession procedures in a timely manner.