Japan, China play for ‘swing states’ in regional trade game

Source:  Nikkei Asian Review

Deal gains prominence after TPP’s demise, but discord among 16 nations remains

TOKYO — Top negotiators from 16 Asia-Pacific countries representing roughly half the world’s population and around a third of global trade will meet in Kobe next week to discuss a trade deal that some, like Japan, hope will bear fruit amid the growing tide of protectionism.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership in jeopardy following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is gaining prominence as one of the biggest multilateral trade initiatives still on the table.

Protectionism is on the rise globally, Japan’s trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, told RCEP negotiators here Friday, stressing the importance of agreeing on “liberal, high-standard rules for trade and investment.”

Reluctant heavyweights

Negotiations on the RCEP began in 2013, with the aim of setting rules covering 15 fields, such as tariffs, investment, e-commerce, intellectual property and trade facilitation. The presence of China and India gives heft to the project, which also includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

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