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RCEP.   --Photo VCG

Two years on, RCEP boosts trade amid protectionism, set to bring greater opportunities

(Global Times) -- Chinese experts hail the significant role of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in promoting regional trade and investment cooperation despite rising protectionism, as the agreement celebrates its second anniversary on January 1, 2024.
The expected forthcoming upgrade of the world’s largest free trade agreement in its new phase of comprehensive implementation should avoid geopolitical interferences and will unlock even greater opportunities for all involved economies, experts said.
The RCEP officially took effect on January 1, 2022. With the RCEP taking effect in the Philippines on June 2, 2023, the trade pact has come into full effect for all 15 signatory economies, entering a new phase of comprehensive implementation.
There have been greater dividends from the RCEP agreement since it took effect, Zhang Xin, a spokesperson for the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), said on Wednesday.
In November, CCPIT branches nationwide issued 19,834 RCEP Certificates of Origin, up 20.83 percent year-on-year. The certificates will mean companies are eligible for tariff reductions.
The trade pact of 15 Asia-Pacific countries is expected to lead to the gradual elimination of tariffs on over 90 percent of goods traded within the region, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
China’s total imports and exports with the other 14 members of RCEP reached 6.1 trillion yuan (US$860 billion), a year-on-year increase of 1.5 percent in the first half of 2023. It contributed over 20 percent to the growth of China’s foreign trade, Lü Daliang, a spokesperson for the General Administration of Customs, said at a press conference on July 13.
According to Chinese customs data, over the first 11 months of 2023, Asean was China’s largest trading partner. The total trade between China and Asean was 5.8 trillion yuan, with a growth of 0.1 percent, accounting for 15.3 percent of China’s total foreign trade.
The implementation of the RCEP has played a significant positive role in promoting regional trade cooperation since it took effect on January 1, 2022, despite the impact of geopolitical interference and the US’ interest hikes, according to experts.
RCEP cooperation needs to consolidate its achievements and further eliminate geopolitical influences. In particular, if the potential for trade and investment cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea is further realised, the benefits of the RCEP will be even more pronounced, said Huo Jianguo, a vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organisation Studies in Beijing.
Further upgrading the RCEP is expected to bring greater opportunities for regional economic and trade cooperation, Huo said.
As the comprehensive implementation of the RCEP enters a new stage, the agreement is poised for an upgrade that will unlock new development opportunities in investment and service trade, among other key areas, Chinese experts noted.
It is crucial for all member economies to continue to drive the effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the RCEP in the future, Sang Baichuan, dean of the Institute of International Economy at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times.
The RCEP is upgrading, and it is necessary to further enhance trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation, Sang noted.
While the US is setting political barriers for global free trade, China, along with other economies, is pushing for the full implementation and upgrade of the RCEP, which helps promote the global free trade process.
When anti-globalisation sentiments are on the rise, the steady implementation of the RCEP is a significant boon for global trade and peace. China’s efforts in promoting the RCEP and other trade processes demonstrates its foresight and sense of responsibility, Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The RCEP can be expanded timely, and in terms of economic and trade relations, Bangladesh is a suitable participant, Mei said.
Following India’s withdrawal from the RCEP four years ago, its neighboring country Bangladesh is considering joining the agreement. However, Indian media outlet Economic Times on December 25 claimed that if Bangladesh continues to seek to join the RCEP, India will reassess its negotiations on the free trade agreement with the country.
It is regretful, if India is indeed setting up barriers for neighboring countries to join the RCEP as reported, Mei said.

(Latest Update January 2, 2024)

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