ASEAN’s regional trade pact gaining growing momentum
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has come into the global spotlight with the imminent demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. And the conclusion of the 16th round of RCEP negotiations in Indonesia last week suggests there is greater consensus and confidence among the participants that they will be able to strike an agreement at an early date.
Chapter two of the trade pact, on smalland medium- enterprises, was completed, marking a significant progress in the RCEP since its initiation in 2012. The previous chapter, focusing on economic and technical cooperation, had been achieved with 15 rounds of negotiations.
Efforts still need to be made in other areas like goods, services, investments, intellectual property rights and movement of labor. But, fueled by enthusiasm from members including Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and China, there is obvious optimism that the RCEP negotiations might be completed next year.
Since US President-elect Donald Trump said last month that he would scrap the TPP “from day one” in office, the inevitable US withdrawal from the TPP has rekindled hopes that the RCEP will play a leading role in regional economic cooperation and integration.