China, India show their hands on investor access in RCEP trade talks
By Paul McBeth
April 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand trade officials have seen offers on terms for investment access for the first time from a number of Asian nations, including China, in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The 12th round of negotiations on RCEP, seen as a China-backed counterweight to the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, is set for this week.
Trade officials from New Zealand, Australia, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are meeting in Perth for the negotiation round on a deal which, like the more advanced but controversial TPP pact, would extend beyond simple tariff and quota measures and into agreed rules on investment.
New Zealand already has existing free trade relationships with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) , Australia, China, Korea and Japan, and has been trying without success so far to secure a bilateral deal with India. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman told a briefing in Wellington that the RCEP can help secure a relationship with India if the nation-to-nation talks stall and can also build on existing deals, opening up new avenues of agreement.
One such area is on investment rules, which New Zealand hasn't formally covered off in existing relationships with ASEAN and China.
"All participants have now tabled initial offers on goods, service and investment," the spokesman said. "It's the first time that we will have seen offers from ASEAN, China, and India on investment."
ASEAN started pursuing RCEP with the six non-member states in late 2012, with plans that would span 27 percent of the world's merchandise trade and 55 percent of New Zealand's own exports. Six of New Zealand's top 10 trading partners are in the negotiations, and the deal is seen as helping deliver an Asia-Pacific free trade area.
The RCEP talks so far encompass tariffs, rules and non-tariff measures on goods, including customs procedures, rules of origin, standards and technical regulations, and sanitary and phytosanitary rules, market access and treatment for services, and investment, including dispute resolution provisions.
The MFAT spokesman said intellectual property has been an area with a "real range of ambitions" given the different levels of development from the negotiating nations.
In November, ministers said they were hoping to wrap up a deal in 2016, something the MFAT spokesman said negotiators were working toward.