www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/fta-ale.aspx?lang=eng Australia hopes the trade agreement will improve relations with China, its main trading partner. The China-backed agreement is seen as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Washington trade initiative that no longer exists. The heads of state and government of the signatories approved the terms of the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok last year, with the agreement officially signed on Sunday. In a joint statement, the signatories said the trade agreement would play an important role in pandemic recovery plans and help build the region`s resilience through an “inclusive and sustainable post-pandemic economic recovery process.” On November 15, 2020, 15 countries – members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and five regional partners – signed the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), probably the largest free trade agreement in history. The RCEP and the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, also dominated by East Asian members, are the only major multilateral free trade agreements signed during the Trump era. The RCEP, often imprecisely described as “china-led,” is a triumph of ASEAN`s diplomacy of middle power. The value of a major East Asian trade agreement has long been recognized, but neither China nor Japan, the region`s largest economies, have been politically acceptable as architects for the project. The impasse was resolved in 2012 by an ASEAN-brokered agreement, which included India, Australia and New Zealand as members and tasked ASEAN with negotiating the agreement. Without such an “ASEAN centrality,” the RCEP would never have been created.
Chinese President Xi has opened up to other trade agreements and imports under the RCEP would be treated in the same way by parties from all member countries, which could prompt companies from RCEP countries to seek suppliers in the trade region. The RCEP will also accelerate the economic integration of Innordostasia. A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said last year that negotiations on the trilateral free trade agreement between China and South Korea and Japan, which have been stalled for many years, will begin “as soon as they are able to conclude the RCEP negotiations.” As I said, in a high-level speech in early November, President Xi Jinping promised to “accelerate negotiations on an investment agreement between China and the EU and a free trade agreement between China and Japan and the United States.” www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements The trade agreement allows China – by far the largest economy and the most populous economy in the region – to emerge as the “champion of globalization and multilateral cooperation,” said Gareth Leather, Asia`s chief economist at Capital Economics. Finally, rcep and the CPTPP are powerful counter-examples of the decline in rules-based trade around the world. If rcep stimulates mutually beneficial growth, its members, including China, will gain influence around the world. However, it sets rules for trade that facilitate investment and other business in the area, said Jeffrey Wilson, research director at the Perth USAsia Center. Southeast Asian heads of state and government met in Bangkok for a three-day, trade-dominated summit. ASEAN members are working to finalize a China-backed plan for the creation of the world`s largest free trade area. “It is essential that partners like China, when they enter into new agreements like this, not only provide the details of such agreements, but act faithfully to their minds,” Birmingham told The Age newspaper.