RCEP "step in right direction," multilateralism to be biggest winner: Swiss economist

GENEVA, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest free trade pact, “is a step in the right direction,” and the multilateral system will be ultimately “the biggest winner” of this regional agreement, said Marcelo Olarreaga, professor of economics at the University of Geneva.

“I think these kinds of efforts, through which the states show their willingness to open themselves regionally … is a step in the right direction,” Olarreaga said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

The RCEP accord was signed on Nov. 15 by 15 countries — the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The RCEP signatories account for around 30 percent of the world’s population, gross domestic product and trade.

History shows that regional integration “has encouraged the multilateral system to move forward as well,” said Olarreaga, who also worked as a researcher at the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Recalling the numerous “regional movements that pushed all WTO members to engage in a multilateral process,” he underlined that the RCEP can promote multilateralism in the future, with more comprehensive commitments “that are not going to be limited to the Asian region.”

Convinced that “all the other (RCEP) members are going to benefit tremendously from having a country like China as part of this agreement,” Olarreaga estimated that, in the medium term, “the biggest winner will be the multilateral system and everyone.”

“The benefits of these small steps are going to extend to the rest of the world through multilateral cooperation,” he said.

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