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AANZFTA distils lessons from RCEP, and other FTAs to support its upgrade negotiations

1 October 2021

A total of 254 officials from ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) countries gathered in a series of webinars on the ‘Lesson Learned from RCEP Agreement and other Relevant FTAs to Support the AANZFTA Upgrade Negotiations’ supported by the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Programme (AECSP).
 
Acting Director of Brunei’s Ministry of Finance and Economy Trade Division and ASEAN Co-Chair of the AANZFTA Joint Committee (FJC) Nor Zerlina Momin noted that, “it is fitting for us to learn from the RCEP Agreement and take into account potential elements that can further improve and unlock the potential of our current AANZFTA Agreement.’’
 
"Furthermore, the evolving trade, business practices and the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have brought us to consider making significant changes to modernise the Agreement. We must now navigate the COVID-19 crisis and ensure a resilient and sustainable recovery in the future. Therefore, the suggestions to revisit the Agreement, as well as new cross-sectoral areas of cooperation, such as Trade and Sustainable Development and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are all timely and appropriate,” she concluded.
 
Echoing the above statement, Charlie Gillard, Deputy Head of Mission of New Zealand Mission to ASEAN, representing New Zealand FJC Co-Chair, highlighted that “the webinars provide an excellent opportunity to discuss the key lesson learned from the RCEP and ideas for taking the AANZFTA upgrade forward.”
 
On her part, Assistant Secretary Juliana Nam of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade FTA Policy & Implementation Branch and Australia FJC Co-Chair, reiterated the significance of this project. “This project is for you to help explore what is possible, exchange views, and harness admissions for the betterment of the agreement and our region,” she said.
 
The webinars provided an avenue for the participants to discuss the outcomes of a Comparative Study and Gap Analysis between AANZFTA and RCEP Agreement as well as other relevant FTAs. These included the crucial findings and proposed recommendations for the AANZFTA negotiators in eight key areas: (i) trade in goods and non-tariff measures, (ii) rules of origins, (iii) customs and trade facilitation, (iv) trade in services (including financial and telecommunication services), (v) investment, (vi) competition and consumer protection, (vii) e-commerce, and (viii) government procurement.
 
The participants also discussed other key areas to introduce in the AANZFTA upgrade, namely Anti-Corruption and Transparency, Trade and Sustainable Development (Environment and Labour), Regulatory Coherence, and MSMEs.
 
The interactive and engaging discussions at the webinar series have enriched and sharpened findings and recommendations of the study. They provided valuable inputs to a final report generated by this project to assist AANZFTA negotiators in the ongoing negotiations, targeting for conclusion by September 2022.
 
Karen Yeo, Economic Official/ Counsellor from the Singapore Mission to ASEAN, highlighted that “this [study] is a useful reference guide to ongoing conversations [the AANZFTA Upgrade negotiations] and that what we agreed to do internally is to encourage our subsidiary bodies to take a look at the recommendations closely and see how we can fit into the ongoing negotiations […] and I would agree that the AANZFTA upgrade should be the incubator for new emerging issues where appropriate.”
 
The webinar series took place on September 17, 22, 23, and concluded on September 27. It was organised by White Rook Advisory, as the consultant of the study, in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat and the AANZFTA Support Unit.

For more information on this project or the AECSP, please contact the AANZFTA Support Unit at aanzfta_inquiry@asean.org.



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