China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao has announced that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had been ratified during the National People’s Congress in Beijing, three months ahead of schedule.
He urged other member countries to ratify the agreement as soon as possible, telling the South China Morning Post: “The sooner the agreement enters into force, the sooner the people of the member countries will benefit.”
The 15-member trade deal was inked in mid-November. It is the world’s largest free trade agreement, and includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
The RCEP agreement will enter into force 60 days after six ASEAN member states and three non-ASEAN member states have ratified the deal.
According to He Ping, a professor of international politics at Fudan University, in Shanghai, the accelerated ratification by the Chinese government is a move to motivate other countries to accelerate their procedures.
“The Japanese parliament is also working on the ratification, and there should be no problem. We estimate there would not be problems with ratification from some other ASEAN countries,” he said, adding that if the threshold was passed, the pact would enter into force by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
First proposed in 2011, RCEP will eliminate as much as 90 percent of the tariffs on imports between its signatories within 20 years. It will also establish common rules for e-commerce, trade, and intellectual property. The new economic bloc will thus represent around a third of the world’s gross domestic product and population.
It will become the first-ever free-trade agreement to include China, Japan, and South Korea – Asia’s first, second and fourth-largest economies. One of the original partners, India, has refused to participate in the negotiations due to its concern that opening up its market would cause its trade deficit with China to grow.