Friday, 05 March, 2021


Japan businesses expect RCEP deal to boost Asia trade, investment

Singapore among 15 countries to have signed world's largest trade deal Vietnam inks world’s largest trade pact RCEP
Conrad Doyle | 15 November, 2020, 19:36

The RCEP "solidifies China's broader regional geopolitical ambitions around the Belt and Road initiative", said Alexander Capri, a trade expert at the National University of Singapore Business School, referring to Beijing's signature investment project that envisions Chinese infrastructure and influence spanning the globe.

The pact was signed online by leaders of 10 ASEAN member states as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea as part of the 37th ASEAN Summit chaired by Vietnam in Hanoi. Crucially, it should help shrink costs and make life easier for companies by letting them export products anywhere within the bloc without meeting separate requirements for each country.

It also includes chapters on intellectual property, e-commerce, competition, small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), economic and technical cooperation, and government procurement.

"The conclusion of RCEP negotiation, the largest free trade agreement in the world, will send a strong message that affirms ASEAN's leading role in supporting the multilateral trading system, creating a new trading structure in the region, enabling sustainable trade facilitation, revitalizing the supply chains disrupted by COVID-19 and assisting the post pandemic recovery", he said.

It is unclear when the pact will be ratified but it could come into force next year.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) is pictured during the signing ceremony for the RCEP trade pact in Hanoi on November 15, 2020.

But it does set rules for trade that will facilitate investment and other business within the region, Jeffrey Wilson, research director at the Perth USAsia Center, said in a report for the Asia Society.

That deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was on track to be the world's biggest trade pact, until Washington pulled the plug, saying it funnelled off USA jobs. President Donald Trump later pulled the United States out of TPP talks, and a revised deal was signed among the remaining 11 countries including Japan.

"The problem with RCEP is that you have 15 incredibly diverse countries at different stages of development and with completely internal priorities", he added.

India raised alarm about market access issues, fearing its domestic producers could be hard hit if the country was flooded with cheap Chinese goods. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he pulled out over concerns about how RCEP would affect the livelihoods of Indians, particularly the most vulnerable.

What does it mean for the US?

"The RCEP signatory states will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of RCEP agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to RCEP agreement to the depositary of the RCEP agreement, taking into consideration the latest status of India's participation in RCEP negotiations and any new development thereafter", according to the Ministers' Declaration on India's Participation in RCEP.

"However, this is not expected to be an immediate priority issue. given the considerable negative response to the TPP negotiations from many segments of the U.S. electorate due to concerns about USA job losses to Asian countries", he added. In his comments at the ministerial-level discussion of the 15th East Asia Summit (EAS), Mr. Jaishankar obliquely referred to China and said "actions and incidents" in the important maritime region eroded trust and suggested the need to adhere to the rules-based global system.

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