The bright spot that points the direction ahead. A timely boost to the longer-term prospects of the region. That’s how Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing described the signing of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).
It is the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement. Its members are the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Together, they comprise nearly 30% of the global population and global GDP.
A clear statement of unwavering commitment to multilateralism
“At a time where support for multilateralism is fraying, the RCEP will send a clear statement of the region’s unwavering support and commitment to the multilateral trading system,” Mr Chan was quoted by CNA as saying.
2020 has been a challenging year with disruptions to global production and supply chains. The after-effects will linger for years to come, Mr Chan said.
No economy can hope to recover on their own said Mr Chan. “As domestic pressure grows, it is understandable to want to onshore production and bring supply chains closer to home. However, this is not the most sustainable strategy,” he added.
Countries need to work together to chart a new path for the future, Mr Chan said.
In a Facebook post, PM Lee said, “This is a major step forward for our region. At a time when multilateralism is losing ground, and global growth is slowing, the RCEP shows Asian countries’ support for open and connected supply chains, freer trade and closer interdependence.”
Meanwhile, Alexander Feldman, president, chairman and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council says RCEP offers opportunities for US businesses. The US needs to step up even as it deals with the coronavirus pandemic, he said on Squawk Box.