November 15th, 2020, fifteen Asia-Pacific countries formally signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, the world’s largest free-trade deal encompassing nearly a third of all economic activity.
The RCEP agreement involves all ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and five of its major trading partners－China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. With the largest participating population in the world, the most diverse membership, and the greatest development potential, the RCEP will inject new impetus into regional development and prosperity, and contribute to the recovery and growth of the world economy.
Regarding the content of RCEP, it removes the tariff on 90% of the good trading between participating countries, unifies the country of origin certificate rules, facilitates the entrance of service trading and cross-border investments, and introduced new convenient rules for e-commerce. The agreement also includes detailed rules on intellectual property and competition policies while keeps being highly open and friendly to economies of all kinds. The other bilateral or multilateral trading agreements among all 15 members will soon be replaced by RCEP.
As well as other participating countries, China speaks highly of the RCEP as not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade. The total population and economic and trade volume of the 15 member economies account for over 30% of the world’s total, indicating that about one-third of the world’s economies now form an integrated market.
The leaders of the participating countries witnessed the signing of the agreement and said the RCEP will remain open to India, one of the early involvement countries in this agreement. In the meantime, the pact will also provide a path and a strong impetus for the development of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.
After eight years of negotiations, the signing of the RCEP agreement has brought hope to people amid the current grim international situation, showing that multilateralism and free trade remain the correct direction for the world economy and human progress. The RCEP is expected to significantly boost regional trade and investment, reinforce industrial and supply chains, and enhance the ability of all parties to fight against the pandemic, as well as promote the economic recovery of all countries, and promote the region’s long-term prosperity and growth.