The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed on Nov. 15, marking the official launching of a free trade area that has the largest participating population, the most diverse membership, and the greatest development potential.
The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian cooperation but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade.
The RCEP will lead countries in the region to a high level of opening-up in trade in goods and services, as well as investment. It will also help greatly boost trade and investment liberalization and facilitation across the region, and enhance the region’s appeal and competitiveness.
While giving a strong push to regional economic recovery and injecting new momentum into the development and prosperity of the region, the RCEP agreement will also emerge as an important engine for global economic growth.
After 31 rounds of formal negotiations over eight years, the signing of the pact has proved the wisdom and strength of countries moving towards the same direction.
Initiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2012, the RCEP aims to establish a unified market by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
This year has witnessed great efforts in promoting the signing of the agreement. RCEP members have overcome tremendous difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, concluded all negotiations on market access, and completed the review of more than 14,000 pages of legal texts. Finally, the agreement was signed as scheduled. The RCEP is the most consequential achievement in facilitating East Asian economic integration in the past 20 years. The result did not come easily.
China has attracted great attention for promoting openness and cooperation with sincerity throughout the RCEP negotiations. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on various parties to reach an RCEP agreement as soon as possible for many times, and had in-depth exchanges of views with leaders of participating countries on relevant issues.
Upholding the principles of openness, inclusiveness, and mutually beneficial cooperation, China has participated in all leaders’ meetings, ministerial meetings and technical negotiations for the RCEP agreement and contributed to the resolving of difficult issues in negations by facilitating communication, cooperation and the reach of consensuses.
The official implementation of the foreign investment law in China and the constantly shortened negative list for foreign investment have helped create a favorable atmosphere for the country’s participation in relevant negotiations and provide rich experience and institutional guarantee in this regard.
China is accelerating the establishment of a “dual circulation” development pattern in which domestic economic cycle plays a leading role while international economic cycle remains its extension and supplement, which will not only meet its own development needs but also bring greater benefits to people in all countries, demonstrating its sense of responsibility as a major country.
The signing of the RCEP agreement will stimulate vitality for cooperation among regional countries. The pact is conducive to forging a unified system of rules within the region, eliminating trade barriers, and vigorously facilitating trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.
Against the background of a sharp decline in global trade and investment and a severe global economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCEP will significantly facilitate the flow of goods, technologies, services, people and capital, ensure the stable and smooth functioning of regional industrial and supply chains, and help all members to jointly overcome challenges posed by the pandemic.
Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao pointed out that the signing of RCEP will inject strong impetus into regional economic cooperation.
The RCEP will add $186bn to the size of the global economy and 0.2 per cent to the gross domestic product of its members, pointed out the Financial Times.
The signing of the RCEP has become benchmark a good example of openness and cooperation in the world. As a modern, comprehensive, high-standard and mutually beneficial free trade agreement, the RCEP is highly inclusive and accommodates its member countries’ capacity for opening-up.
The 15 participating countries of the RCEP include 10 ASEAN countries, as well as China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Some of them are developed countries, while some are developing countries and the least developed countries.
By granting some countries arrangements for the transitional period and fully reflecting the participating countries’ greatest possible converging interests in development, the RCEP sets an example of mutually beneficial free trade arrangements among countries with different development stages, systems and institutions.
The signing of the agreement has fully demonstrated that multilateralism and free trade is the right way and remains the correct direction for the world economy and all people.
The international community believes that RCEP will play an active role in promoting the development of global free trade and multilateral trading system.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the signing of the pact as a major step forward for the world, saying that it signals the participating countries’ collective commitment to maintaining open and connected supply chains, and to promoting freer trade and closer interdependence.
As a Chinese saying goes, no matter how far the destination is, we will get there as long as we have perseverance; no matter how difficult the task is, we will finish it as long as we have determination.
Economic globalization and free trade have become historical trends that are in line with the development interests of all countries. Maintaining multilateralism and staying committed to openness and cooperation are the correct choices for coping with risks and challenges and promoting common development.
All countries should remain steadfast in adhering to their belief in openness, cooperation, solidarity and win-win results and push forward bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation.
As long as various parties make concerted efforts to promote cooperation with firm confidence, they will surely build a brighter future for East Asia and even the whole world.