The heads of state and government of the signatories approved the terms of the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok last year, with the agreement officially signed on Sunday. In a joint statement, the signatories said the trade agreement would play an important role in pandemic recovery plans and help build the region`s resilience through an “inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic economic recovery process.” In the longer term, Li called the agreement a “victory for multilateralism and free trade.” The largest free trade agreement in history was signed over the weekend and 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region agreed to be signatories. Overall, the agreement will cover 30% of global GDP and the world`s population to exceed the level of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. APTA preferences may overlap with separate DFQF systems from China, India and the Republic of Korea, as well as preferences under the SAFTA, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-India and ASEAN-Republic of Korea regional trade agreements. Some media have called the RCEP a Chinese-led effort, but analysts say it`s inaccurate. “For a long time, it wasn`t even dominated by China, although China is the largest economy in the agreement,” says Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. As a pilot, he cited Japan and ASEAN members, including Singapore. While some observers have questioned the likely merger of the RCEP, its creation will allow the United States to remain outside the two existing major Asian trade agreements, even if it tries to thwart and neutralize China`s ambitions in Asia. “All the countries participating in the RCEP have completed the negotiations and will sign the RCEP agreement on Sunday,” Mohamed Azmin Ali, Malaysia`s Minister of Trade and Industry, said in a statement after the ministerial meeting. “After eight years of negotiations of blood, sweat and tears, we have finally reached the point where we will seal the RCEP agreement.” The fourth round of negotiations will focus on areas that go beyond traditional tariff concessions in order to deepen trade policy cooperation and integration. APTA members are currently negotiating three framework agreements on trade facilitation, trade in services and investment. In addition, APTA members exchange information on non-tariff measures.
In the area of cybersecurity, RCEP countries are committed to cooperating and sharing information on best practices in cybersecurity and strengthening the authorities` ability to respond to them.