RCEP negotiations important for year-end signing

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE virtual 10th Intercessional Ministerial Meeting today will resume the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, marking an important milestone towards the expected signing by year-end.

Senior Minister and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (picture) will lead the local delegation to participate in the meeting alongside 14 other Asean countries comprising Brunei, Laos and Myanmar, and five Asean free trade agreement (FTA) partners Japan, Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) noted that the economic and trade ministers of the 15 member countries would be expected to discuss outstanding issues to enable the finalisation of the agreement.

“The RCEP, once concluded, is expected to be the world’s largest regional FTA in terms of GDP contribution to the world economy and population coverage.

“Given the volatility of the global economy against the backdrop of trade friction and the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative for Malaysia, as one of the top global trading nations, to support and work together with other RCEP participating countries towards the conclusion of negotiations and eventual signing of the RCEP Agreement,” it said.

MITI added that it had consistently engaged with stakeholders including the industry, civil society organisations and Parliament members in advancing the country’s position in the negotiations.

Besides, Azmin will share and express the nation’s view on the way forward for the agreement, and towards this end, the government strives to promote free and fair trade while balancing domestic stakeholders’ interests.

The negotiations of the agreement, which potentially include over three billion people or 45% of the world’s population were formally launched in November 2012 at the Asean Summit in Cambodia.

The combined GDP potentially stands at US$21.3 trillion (RM91.16 trillion) and accounts for 40% of the world trade. However, its impact, which would have surpassed the combined GDP of Trans-Pacific Partnership members in 2007, has since been reduced when India opted out of the agreement in 2019.

The Indian government pulled out of the agreement due to concerns of a surge of imports from China, which would potentially affect its own domestic industrial and farming sectors.

Among other criticisms received on the agreement were from the free culture and global healthcare activists, stating that it contains “quite simply the worst provisions on copyright ever seen in a trade agreement” and for potentially forcing India to end its cheap supply of generic medications to poor countries respectively.