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Asian-Pacific coalition agreement on a vast Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

On 15 November 2020, after 30 negotiating rounds ran through 8 years among key economies of the South-East Asian & Pacific area, concluded the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the arguably largest regional trade agreement of the history including ASEAN members (i.e. Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. 1 Observer – Papua New Guinea) and 5 partners (i.e. Japan, Australia, China, New Zealand, South Korea). United States and India also participated in the negotiations to later pull out under Modi and Trump governments for different concerns.

Broadly welcomed by the Union as a positive example of commitment for free and fair trade with multilateralism, the RCEP creates the largest free trade zones stretching from Kazakhstan to South-Korea, incorporating 28% of the total global trade volumes and 30% of the global population and GDP. The content, judged by some as not-ambitious enough, mostly covers trade in goods and leaves out services and agriculture while failing to include environmental and labor standards, contrarily to the European spirit of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Besides, the RCEP provides for a promising harmonisation of Rules of Origins, a positive note for exports of manufacturing products, which will for free circulation within the vast area with a single regulatory format.

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