China and 14 other countries have agreed to form the world’s largest free-trade bloc, encompassing nearly a third of all economic activity, in a deal hoping it will help hasten recovery from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed virtually on Sunday, November 15, on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
According to Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who hosted the ceremony as ASEAN Chair, “RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery.”
“The conclusion of RCEP negotiation, the largest free trade agreement in the world, will send a strong message that affirms ASEAN’s leading role in supporting the multilateral trading system, creating a new trading structure in the region, enabling sustainable trade facilitation, revitalizing the supply chains disrupted by COVID-19 and assisting the post-pandemic recovery,” Phuc added.
RCEP “will help reduce or remove tariffs on industrial and agricultural products and set out rules for data transmission,” said Luong Hoang Thai, Head of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department at Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The pact will take effect once enough participating countries ratify the agreement domestically within the next two years.