What is the RCEP trade deal?

What is the RCEP trade deal?

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade bloc comprising 15 countries led by China that recently came into existence.
  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed agreement between the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its free trade agreement (FTA) partners.
  • The pact aims to cover trade in goods and services, intellectual property, etc.

When was RCEP introduced?

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was introduced during the 19th Asean meet held in November 2011.
  • The RCEP negotiations were kick-started during the 21st Asean Summit in Cambodia in November 2012.
  • Member states of ASEAN and their FTA partners are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Its aim is to lower tariffs, open up trade in services and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world.
  • RCEP is expected to help reduce costs and time for companies by allowing them to export a product anywhere within the bloc without meeting separate requirements for each country.
  • It also touches on intellectual property, but will not cover environmental protections and labour rights.

Why does it matter?

  • It mainly matters because it sets new trade rules for the region — and has China’s backing but does not include the United States.
  • It solidifies China’s broader geopolitical ambitions in the region, where it has faced little competition from the US since it pulled out of a trade pact of its own, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Why no India?

  • India withdrew last year over concerns about cheap Chinese goods entering the country, though it can join at a later date if it chooses.
  • It raised alarm about market access issues, fearing its domestic producers could be hard hit if the country was flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
  • Textiles, dairy, and agriculture were flagged as three vulnerable industries.

Recent Development

  • China and 14 other countries agreed to set up the worlds largest trading bloc.
  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed recently on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
  • The RCEP signatory states will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of the RCEP Agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to the RCEP Agreement to the depository of the RCEP Agreement.
  • The China-backed group is expected to represent at least 30% of the global GDP and will emerge as the largest free trade agreement in the world.

Leverage for China

  • The agreement means a lot for China, as it will give it access to Japanese and South Korean markets in a big way, as the three countries have not yet agreed on their FTA.
  • The fact this happened, despite the pandemic, is certainly leverage for China, and shows the idea of decoupling from China is not a substantive issue in a regional sense.

Things to know about the world’s largest free trade agreement

  • Supporters of the trade pact, said it will bolster pandemic-weakened economies by reducing tariffs, strengthening supply chains with common rules of origin, and codifying new e-commerce rules.
  • Among the benefits of the agreement include a tariff elimination of at least 92% on traded goods among participating countries, as well as stronger provisions to address non-tariff measures, and enhancements in areas such as online consumer and personal information protection, transparency and paperless trading.
  • It also includes simplified customs procedures while at least 65% of services sectors will be fully open with increased foreign shareholding limits.
  • The accord will take already low tariffs on trade between member countries still lower, over time.
  • The pact should help shrink costs and make life easier for companies by letting them export products anywhere within the bloc without meeting separate requirements for each country.
  • The agreement touches on intellectual property, but environmental protections and labour rights are not part of the pact.




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