The world's largest free-trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will further boost China-ASEAN cooperation and facilitate the region's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, officials and business leaders said at a high-level forum of the ongoing 18th China-ASEAN Expo.
The RCEP, signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and ASEAN's ten member states in November last year, will "open a new chapter for China-ASEAN economic and trade ties," said Ren Hongbin, China's vice minister of commerce. The forum took place on Friday in Nanning, the capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Covering roughly 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, trade and population, the RCEP has great development potential and will inject strong impetus into the anti-pandemic battle and economic revival in East Asia and across the globe, Ren said.
Noting that China expects the RCEP to add new vitality to East Asia economic integration, he said the agreement "integrates and optimizes the region's economic and trade rules in a wide range of fields, including goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights, e-commerce and competition policy, which will further promote the integrated development of industrial chain, supply chain and value chain in the region."
Dato Lim Jock Hoi, secretary-general of ASEAN, said via video that the RCEP could play a significant part in post-pandemic economic recovery in the region by linking the regional value chains more closely. In turn, this will improve the transparency of trade and investment regulations and enhance cooperation across the RCEP participating countries.
The RCEP has the potential to boost business confidence, benefit consumers and promote regional economic integration and equitable economic development for all participating countries, said Thanongsinh Kanlagna, executive vice president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, via a video message.
At the forum, officials, business leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs from China and ASEAN also called on the RCEP participating countries to work together for the agreement's early entry into force and implementation.
"To reap the rewards of the RCEP, we need to ensure the timely entry into force of the RCEP agreement," Dato Lim stated, noting that full, effective and efficient implementation of the RCEP is imperative for realizing its benefits.
He also commended China for setting an example as one of the first signatories that ratified the agreement.
Ratifications of six ASEAN member states and three non-ASEAN member countries are needed to reach the threshold of the RCEP's entry into force. Countries that have completed the ratification procedures include China, Singapore, Japan and Cambodia.
"Attaching great importance to the RCEP, the Chinese government has ratified the agreement and made full preparations for fulfilling its obligations under the agreement," Ren said.
He added that China will work with the RCEP participating countries to expedite their ratification processes for early entry into force and implementation of the agreement.