ASEAN prioritizes signing of world largest free trade deal by year’s end

13:00 | 14/09/2020 Vietnam - Asean

(VEN) - In its role as ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam has made great efforts to promote the settlement of outstanding issues in negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in order to drive towards the signing of the world’s largest free trade deal by the end of this year.

asean prioritizes signing of world largest free trade deal by years end

Most issues resolved

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and five ASEAN’s free trade partners - Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

According to Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, with a market of around 3.5 billion consumers and total gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately US$49 trillion, RCEP will account for about 39 percent of global GDP.

Since the beginning of the year, online meetings and discussions of the parties involved in RCEP negotiations have been conducted on schedule, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Negotiations on the complex treaty began in 2012. Following the March 11 ASEAN Economic Ministers Caucus Meeting on RCEP in the framework of the 26th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Retreat and the 10th RCEP Inter-sessional Ministerial Meeting in late June, RCEP member countries agreed on the plan to conclude outstanding issues at the 52nd ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings taking place from August 22-29 under the chair of Vietnam.

Minister Tran Tuan Anh said most of the remaining negotiation issues have been handled satisfactorily, with ASEAN ministers giving specific directions, including those on legal review, to boost preparation for the signing and to facilitate the engagement of India in the process.

Another meeting will likely be held in October to review the preparations before reporting to the ASEAN Summit the following month, Minister Tran Tuan Anh added.

According to ASEAN economic ministers, the signing will be a basis for strengthening the business community’s confidence and firming the sustainable structure of the regional economy, contributing to post-pandemic economic recovery.

Opportunities for Vietnam

With the aim of achieving a high-quality agreement with balanced benefits, Vietnam has actively participated in discussions and proposed flexible solutions to problems arising between parties while ensuring national interests.

According to Minister Tran Tuan Anh, RCEP will form the largest free trade area in the world. Member countries are to join the open market for goods and services, investment opportunities, facilitated trade and simplified customs procedures.

The trade deal is expected to strongly promote the development of regional and global value chains, helping to further strengthen economic development of ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and its partners. Given the obstacles of trade protectionism facing international and regional economies, the trade deal will contribute to the creation of a new trade structure in the region, helping push globalization towards liberalization and trade facilitation in a sustainable manner. Regarding Vietnam, RCEP will open up more opportunities for market expansion, boost exports, participate in new value chains in the region, and draw more foreign investment. Tariff cuts will also offer opportunities for leading sectors, such as telecommunications, information technology, garment and textile, footwear, and agriculture.

Together with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), RCEP has a crucial meaning for Vietnam’s long-term goals and strategies, affirming that the country plays an important role in globalization.

RCEP member countries, including Vietnam, are entering the final stage of negotiations to achieve a modern, comprehensive and high-quality agreement with balanced benefits for all parties involved.

Tue Minh