Tue, 24 Nov 2020

HANOI, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed among its 15 participating countries Sunday, launching the world's biggest free trade bloc.

What is RCEP? How "big" it is? How many years does it take to sign the deal? The following will explain. WHAT IS RCEP?

The RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a mega trade pact proposed by ASEAN to boost trade among its member states and with its free trade agreement (FTA) partners. It includes the 10 ASEAN members, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the bloc's five FTA partners of Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

It aims to break down trade barriers and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world. HOW "BIG" IS IT?

AROUND THIRTY PERCENT! The 15 participating countries of the RCEP account for around 30 percent of the global population, global gross domestic product and 28 percent of global trade. HOW MANY YEARS DOES IT TAKE?

2012: Launched with the goal to deepen economic relationship among the 16 Asia-Pacific nations;

2015: Originally planned to be finished but have repeatedly missed the deadline;

2016: Six rounds of talks held;

2017: The first RCEP summit was held in the Philippine capital Manila;

2018: The second RCEP summit was held in Singapore;

2019: Talks accelerated as 15 RCEP participating countries concluded text-based negotiations and all market access issues in Bangkok, Thailand, with an aim to sign the mega free-trade pact next year;

2020: Signed! HOW IMPORTANT IS IT?

The signing of the deal is "a victory of multilateralism and free trade," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said.

"The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade," Li said.

The conclusion of the negotiations of the RCEP will "send a strong message of ASEAN's leading role in supporting the multilateral trade system, helping to create a new trading structure in the region, facilitating trade sustainably, developing the disrupted supply chains and supporting post-pandemic recovery," Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said.

Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Mohamed Azmin Ali said the signing of the RCEP agreement will be a testament to the world on the efforts to strengthen the multilateral trading system and uphold the development agenda in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The RCEP is "a hugely symbolically significant agreement, coming at a time of global trade uncertainty," said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.

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