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Officials see verification procedures as key to RCEP

Officials and business executives attend signing of agreements during the China-ASEAN Expo on Sept 11.(PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Government officials and business leaders from member countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which was officially signed late last year, have called for accelerated verification procedures among signatories for the RCEP agreement to take effect and realize its benefits as soon as possible.

As the world's largest free-trade deal, the RCEP will further boost China-ASEAN cooperation and inject new impetus into regional and global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.

Their remarks came at a high-level forum of the 18th China-ASEAN Expo and the concurrent China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, which were held in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, last month.

The RCEP agreement, signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and ASEAN's 10 member states, in November last year, covers about 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, trade and population.

The RCEP region has great development potential, and if the RCEP enters into force, strong impetus will be injected into the anti-pandemic battle and economic revival in East Asia and across the globe, said Ren Hongbin, China's vice-minister of commerce, on the event's sidelines.

China is now well prepared to implement the obligations of the pact and expects the RCEP to add new momentum to East Asia economic integration, Ren said.

China also expects the RCEP to bring real benefits for business and industrial communities of the region, and give rise to huge business opportunities in sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, digital economy and green economy, he added.

The RCEP conforms to the trend of closer cooperation for development of the regional economy and serves the common interests of all parties, and business communities of member countries "should proactively promote pragmatic cooperation, to create a good atmosphere for the agreement to enter into force, and therefore benefit from the RCEP as soon as possible", Ren said.

Dato Lim Jock Hoi, secretary-general of ASEAN, said via video that the RCEP agreement could play a significant part in a post-pandemic regional economic recovery by linking regional value chains even more closely, improving the transparency of trade and investment regulations and enhancing cooperation across RCEP countries.

He cited a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which suggested that by 2025, the RCEP will boost member exports by over 10 percent, and by 2030, the agreement is projected to add approximately 0.2 percentage point to GDP growth in the region.

The study further suggested that the RCEP could add up to $209 billion annually to world incomes and $500 billion to world trade by 2030.

"As promising as these projections might be, its realization will entirely hinge on the full, effective and efficient implementation of the agreement itself," he said.

He commended China for setting an example as one of the first signatories to ratify the agreement.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge to ASEAN since its founding. But it also provides a window of opportunity for a more cooperative regional economy in East Asia if the region can take advantage of transformative trade agreements such as the RCEP, which can help expedite the post-pandemic recovery in ASEAN, China, and other RCEP countries, he added.

Dan Mathieson, CEO of Zespri, a New Zealand-based global kiwifruit brand, said via video that an agreement like the RCEP has the company very excited because of both the intent it shows and the benefits it will likely deliver.

The RCEP will see the implementation of improved rules for the trade of goods, especially around Customs procedures and some of the rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, Mathieson said.

He is also confident that the RCEP will represent a fantastic example of the benefit of establishing clear and consistent international trading rules, delivering benefits to small and large countries alike.

Zespri looks forward to deepening its relationships with all the trading partners within the RCEP agreement, and the benefits it will inevitably help foster among the global supply chains and consumers in all the respective countries, he said.