AEBC Proposes Establishing RCEP Business Advisory Council

11:22:41 AM | 11/5/2021

VCCI President Pham Tan Cong recently attended an emergency meeting of the East Asia Business Council (EABC) with 13 EABC member countries and the EABC Secretariat to seek opinions on three important issues.

The first is the decision on the rotational chairmanship of EABC for the following years. The second is AEBC's proposal to ASEAN+3 leaders on the establishment of the RCEP Business Advisory Council. And the last is the discussion on cooperation with the ASEAN Secretariat in RCEP related activities.

At the meeting, VCCI President Cong highly agreed that the EABC will be chaired by the country that chairs ASEAN, while the co-chair will be one of ASEAN+3 countries (Japan, China and South Korea).

On the establishment of the RCEP Business Advisory Council, a majority of EABC members agreed that the formation of RCEP BAC is very necessary to represent the voice of RCEP businesses, especially when RCEP is ratified and enforced, expected early next year. This is also the largest-ever free trade agreement (FTA), and that catches the attention of many major countries.

According to the ASEAN BAC Secretariat, making RCEP BAC a subcommittee or working group of EABC (as it used to be) will not demonstrate its importance nor engage active members. EABC may act as a precursor and later develop RCEP BAC because this is also consistent with the current fact that EABC's programs and activities mostly focus on RCEP issues. In addition, if RCEP BAC membership is approved by member countries (as EABC), it will be more appropriate and effective to raise the position of RCEP BAC.

The ASEAN BAC Secretariat also said that if the EABC is not active to establish RCEP BAC, other organizations will be likely to go ahead and do this. A particular example is the World Economic Forum, an RCEP summit of WEF that can easily lead to the formation of a formal platform on RCEP issues (in the same way that WEF used to do with the ASEAN BAC a few years ago).

However, if EABC is transformed into RCEP BAC and focused solely on RCEP, it may be possible to gradually reduce its role on ASEAN's internal issues (besides RCEP) which are currently overlapping with ASEAN BAC. Therefore, ASEAN BAC wants EABC to shift its focus to RCEP issues.

For its part, VCCI joins in both ASEAN BAC and EABC, thus ensuring the representative position and role of Vietnam even in the event that EABC is fully changed to RCEP BAC. However, if EABC keeps its current voice on ASEAN issues, it will maintain the diversity of multilateral organizations participating and supporting ASEAN.

As for EABC’s coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat, EABC is collaborating with the ASEAN Secretariat to organize many webinars on RCEP themed "Capitalizing RCEP Opportunities for Business". In addition, the ASEAN Secretariat is proposing to develop RCEP promotional videos to prepare for RCEP enforcement next year.

By Giang Tu, Vietnam Business Forum