Strong political commitment to conclude RCEP in 2019: PM Lee

“We are in the final stage of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and there is a strong political commitment to conclude them in 2019,” said Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong at the press conference of 33rd ASEAN Summit.

“When concluded, the RCEP will be the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 45 per cent of the world population, 40 per cent of global trade, and one-third of global GDP,” he added.

RCEP is a proposed pact between 16 nations, including the 10-member ASEAN grouping and its six free trade agreement partners India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and South Korea. It comprises 45 per cent of the world’s population and a combined gross domestic product of USD25 trillion (SGD34.4 trillion).

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the press conference after the conclusion of 33rd ASEAN Summit. Photo: Connected to India
Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the press conference after the conclusion of 33rd ASEAN Summit. Photo: Connected to India

Earlier, PM Lee has also urged India to join ASEAN in a push to create the RCEP. During the annual ASEAN-India summit attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PM Lee said, “I am glad that we have made tremendous progress this year to advance the RCEP negotiations. We are now close to the finishing line, although further work remains to finalise the remaining details.”

PM Narendra Modi also tweeted about the ASEAN-India meeting, “Cementing old bonds in pursuit of a glorious future. Had a great interaction with ASEAN leaders at the ASEAN-India Informal Breakfast Summit. We are happy that ties with ASEAN are strong and are contributing to a peaceful and prosperous planet.”

In the press conference, while speaking about the collective co-operation of ASEAN, PM Lee said, “Within ASEAN, we also discussed the initiative to develop ASEAN’s collective cooperation in this region. ASEAN has and will continue to study the various proposals closely.”

“Any proposal should support ASEAN unity and centrality, articulate a coherent economic engagement strategy with our region, espouse a rules-based world order anchored upon international law, and also an open, transparent and inclusive regional architecture,” he added.

PM Lee also reiterated about the economic integration efforts during the closing ceremony of ASEAN. He said, “ASEAN has also redoubled our economic integration efforts, and demonstrated clearly our commitment to uphold a free, open and rules-based multilateral order. Within ASEAN, we signed the ASEAN Agreement on E-Commerce and introduced the ASEAN-wide self-certification scheme to facilitate cross-border online transactions.’

Informing about the counter-terrorism co-operation of ASEAN, Prime Minister of Singapore said, “To address security threats and forge a peaceful and rules-based regional order, we established the Resilience, Response, Recovery framework to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation. We adopted the world’s first multilateral air guidelines to manage unintentional encounters between military aircraft.”

Giving a call for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, PM Lee said, “On the Korean Peninsula, we welcomed the three Inter-Korean Summits held thus far, as well as the summit between the US and the DPRK in Singapore in June. We expressed support for all efforts to secure the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

Speaking about the repatriation for the first batch of verified refugees to Myanmar, PM Lee, said, “On Rakhine State, we note a recent announcement by Myanmar and Bangladesh to commence repatriation for the first batch of verified refugees by mid-November. Myanmar has also invited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. This is the AHA Centre, to despatch a needs assessment team to Rakhine State to facilitate the repatriation process. ASEAN is ready to play an active and positive role in the situation, and will support efforts by all parties to work towards a comprehensive and durable solution.”

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong arriving at the podium to address the media. Photo: Connected to India
Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong arriving at the podium to address the media. Photo: Connected to India

Sharing the experience of leading the ASEAN chair in 2018, PM Lee said, “I am happy that we have launched a number of concrete deliverables that will better prepare ASEAN for the future. I thank fellow ASEAN members and our external partners for your strong support in making our shared vision of a resilient and innovative ASEAN possible.”

“Overall, we were pleased to note the progress under Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship, and Singapore particularly appreciated greatly the support from fellow ASEAN Leaders as well as our external partners. And we’re looking forward to the next meeting in Bangkok, Thailand next year,” he concluded.


Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.


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