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Malaysia hopes to sign RCEP soon

Malaysia is looking to sign the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by this year. The percentage of goods that will not be charged a new tariff — whether it’s 80 or 70 per cent of goods traded, for example — is still being deliberated by the participating countries. Some want more and some are less open to greater trade liberalization.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement among the ten Asean member countries and six countries that the regional grouping has existing FTAs with — namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The RCEP is expected to be ratified by this year but stumbling blocks — such as India’s reluctance to open its markets to Chinese products — remain. Also, the treaty is viewed as a China-led response to the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership brought forward by the US previously.

A combination of 16 countries negotiating on the RCEP would cover some one-third of the global GDP and almost half of the world’s population. The pact aims at encompassing trade in goods and services, investments, intellectual property and dispute resolution, among others. Interest in the deal heightened throughout the region after the emergence of economic nationalism in the US and its trade war with China.