The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed by its 15 participating countries on Nov 15, 2020, launching the world's biggest free trade bloc.
Participating countries of the RCEP include the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The 15 participating countries account for around 30 percent of the global population, global gross domestic product and global trade.
The signing came after more than 30 rounds of negotiation, which were launched in November 2012, as well as a number of specific leader and ministerial meetings between the participating countries.
The RCEP agreement is a comprehensive FTA with 20 chapters, covering basic features of FTAs, trade in goods and services, investment access and corresponding rules.
As a modern FTA, it includes electronic commerce, an important mode in today’s international trade. The agreement also covers intellectual property, competition rules, government procurement, and small and medium enterprises.
As a high-quality FTA, RCEP’s openness in goods trade reaches over 90%, much higher than for WTO members. And in terms of investment, access negotiations will be conducted through negative lists.
The agreement will forge a unified system of rules within the region, reducing operating costs and risk uncertainty and bringing huge convenience to import and export companies in the region.
A unified free trade area will be formed, which will promote flows of commodities, technologies, services and capital as well as people-to-people exchanges.
The agreement is also expected to attract and facilitate investment outside the region.