Australian economist views RCEP as statement for trade liberalization

CANBERRA, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) — The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact signed on Sunday is a statement for trade liberalization, said an Australian senior economist.

“It has particular significance at this time when world trade has been under threat because of increased protectionism … This is a big statement for trade liberalization and for protecting the open global trading system,” said Peter Drysdale, head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at the Australian National University.

Initiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2012, RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 ASEAN member states and their FTA partners including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The 15 participating countries account for nearly 30 percent of both world population and global trade.

Professor Drysdale noted that the signing of the RCEP was a significant development, not only because it is the world’s biggest free trade agreement by population and GDP, but also because “it’s a free trade agreement among a group of countries that constitutes the most dynamic part of the global economy.”

“The RCEP group can promote the openings for reform of the global system that rebuild confidence in the global system,” he said.

He believed that the RCEP was also a huge economic cooperation agreement. “It provides a framework of building economic and political cooperation among the participating economies.”

Besides, Drysdale saw the RCEP as a “regional arrangement with global objective.”

“Asia has to play a major part in bringing the dispute settlement mechanism back into the WTO (World Trade Organization) process actively,” he said, adding that groups like the RCEP members would be important in future negotiations with other countries and blocs, including the future administration of the United States.

Therefore, the agreement would not be static. “It’s a dynamic agreement that involves leaders on a continuing basis,” said the professor.

“It’s very important that the connection be made routinely between the economic ministers and trade ministers responsible for the implementation of RCEP,” he said. 

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