Asean-Japan ministers to strengthen cooperation

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TRADE and industry ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Japan reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen economic and industrial cooperation in line with the Asean-Japan Strategic Economic Cooperation Roadmap, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Sunday.

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The ministers met during the Asean Roadshow in Japan from April 6 to 8, which was conducted as part of the Asean’s 50th founding anniversary under the chairmanship of the Philippines.

Lopez said that the ministers’ commitment includes cooperation to connect Asean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with the global value chain, where SMEs will be supported thru capacity building, networking and business matching and enabling of new industries and start-ups.

“Japan and Asean agreed to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, creating new industries, social agenda such as mobility, energy and healthcare thru cutting-edge technology,” he said.

Business collaborations have also started with the launch of the Asean-Japan Innovation network, the DTI chief said.

Lopez said that the ministers welcomed the proposal of the Philippines to organize regular Asean-Japan trade fairs to promote the best products in the region and their respective branding as well.

The ministers also expressed a desire to see the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal, which is expected to lead to greater regional trade and investment flows, concluded this year.

According to Lopez, the ministers suggested principles to guide the negotiating working group to make the RCEP comprehensive, covering market access, rules and economic and technical cooperation.

“The ministers considered the possibility of having a phased agreement or a building-block approach, completing areas on trade in goods and services, rules of origin, trade facilitation, and intellectual property rights [IPR],” he said.

RCEP aims to be inclusive and innovation-led, and a special study is being conducted to find ways to reduce non-tariff measures and remaining trade barriers, Lopez said.

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