Korea envoy hails RCEP progress

Korea envoy hails RCEP progress

Ambassador expects signing at summit

South Korean ambassador to Thailand Lee Wook-heon is looking forward to the conclusion of the long-awaited Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year under Thailand’s Asean chairmanship.

Mr Lee said he anticipates the completion of the China-backed trade pact comprising 10 Asean members and six partners, including South Korea, on the occasion of the 35th Asean Summit and Related Summits starting early next month.

“In so doing, they seek to create a comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial agreement. Under Thailand’s leadership, Asean’s strategic importance is increasing in the midst of heightened economic uncertainty from the US-China trade war, Brexit and the new international order,” he told a seminar on the theme of moving towards the enhancement of relations between Asean and South Korea.

The forum was held on Friday by Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Asian Studies and Dong-a University’s Institute of Asean Studies at the Mandarin Hotel Bangkok.

Mr Lee stressed that South Korea attaches importance to the bloc.

“South Korean President Moon Jae-in put forward the New Southern Policy in 2017. It aims to elevate the Asean-Korea partnership in all areas of cooperation based on three pillars: people, prosperity and peace. In this connection, the 3rd Asean Commemorative Summit to be held in Busan, South Korea, on Nov 25-26, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the dialogue partnership. Our firm commitment to Asean will be continued,” he said.

The Mekong-ROK Summit will also take place in Busan on Nov 27. Members include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Republic of Korea.

The diplomat also welcomed the adoption of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific based on inclusivity, peace and respect for international law in June.

“It was widely recognised by the international community. This outlook may be considered as one of the major steps in Asean history,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nualnoi Treerat, the director of the Institute of Asian Studies, said RCEP will strengthen Asean centrality because it will consolidate the bloc’s cooperation in the face of economic volatility.

“Asean is not a large regional grouping, but it can ramp up its centrality when we strike trade deals. However, if other countries join the trade pact in the future, it might become another platform,” she said.

When asked about the completion of RCEP, the economist said it should not be too hard to achieve it by the end of this year.

“I am not worried about the RCEP because it arises from the Asean+1 FTA [free trade agreement]. Every country has an FTA with Asean. Now we are talking about the comprehensive framework we can agree on. In this case, it is not too hard,” she added.

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