Asean members have reached common ground on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The mega trade deal, stuck in negotiations for the past seven years, has a total 20 chapters, seven of which have now been completed. In the context of increasing trade tensions and protectionism, promoting RCEP negotiations bear an important meaning as it strengthens rule-based multilateral economic connectivity and free trade throughout the Asia Pacific region. The challenge is that India and China, members of the trade bloc, have no free trade agreement to build upon, and have been holding up completion of some chapters to gain leverage in negotiations on other chapters. Hence, the remaining 13 chapters will be concluded together as they are interlinked with one another.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade agreement between 10 member states of Asean –Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam – and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The 28th round of RCEP negotiations will be hosted by Vietnam in October. Thailand is this year’s Asean chair. RCEP will cover nearly half the global economy. In 2018, trade between the RCEP countries represented up to a third of global trade.