Chu Kar Kin, Hong Kong commentator, in Oriental Daily (November 13, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
The members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – 10 ASEAN member countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – will reach a free trade agreement. Together, they account for about a third of the world’s total population and 30 percent of global GDP. Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, all have great development potential. In terms of economic and trade cooperation, they have many years of experience in dealing with each other.
The RCEP members will sign advanced free trade agreements on goods, services and investment and trade, involving economic and technological cooperation, Fields such as intellectual property rights are becoming more important for countries to reboot their economies, stabilize employment, and stimulate domestic demand. China is also an important export market for Malaysia’s produce such as palm oil, rubber and fruit. Through the RCEP, the two countries can deepen cooperation and trade.
As such, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries should be optimistic about the future of RCEP. As an important engine for the economic recovery of various industries in the post-pandemic era, the agreement will deepen the integration of global industrial chains. Certain products and services will have lower tariffs, while member states can set up free-trade zones and establish preferential policies for private enterprises with partner countries. RCEP could even become a mini version of the Belt and Road Initiative within the Asia-Pacific region.
In the 21st century, countries need to abandon zero-sum thinking, unilateralism and protectionism, and actively embrace multilateral cooperation. RCEP is a turning point, boosting the economic confidence of Asia-Pacific countries while laying a foundation for future trade in both Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, supporting economic growth and creating new opportunities. Together, members will construct a global trading system that promotes cooperation through win-win relationships.