Australia signs up to RCEP, world’s largest free trade agreement
Australia has signed up to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, the world’s largest free trade agreement shared with 14 countries across the Asia Pacific region.
In a joint media statement with Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the signing of this long-awaited agreement signalled the region’s shared commitment to open trade and investment, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
“Our trade policy is all about supporting Australian jobs, boosting export opportunities and ensuring an open region with even stronger supply chains. RCEP builds on our trade successes and is good news for Australian businesses,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“With one in five Australian jobs reliant on trade, the RCEP Agreement will be crucial as Australia and the region begin to rebuild from the COVID‑19 pandemic,” he said.
RCEP is a regional free trade agreement that will complement and build upon Australia’s existing FTAs in the APAC region. The agreement covers trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation.
With Australian participation, export access and supply chain opportunities for Australian businesses may be improved in 14 Indo-Pacific countries.
A total of 15 members across the APAC region comprise the RCEP agreement, which account for around 30% of the global population and GDP. In turn, the RCEP provides better access to 30% of the global economy.
The agreement includes all ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Other signatories are China, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.
When finalised, the RCEP agreement will deliver multiple benefits for Australian exporters. These include a new single set of rules and procedures for accessing preferential tariffs, liberalised trade in services, improved mechanisms for tackling non-tariff barriers in customs procedures, quarantine and technical standards, new rules on e-commerce to make it easier for businesses to trade online, a common set of rules on intellectual property and agreed rules of origin to help suppliers contribute to regional production chains.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia will work towards ratification of the RCEP Agreement in 2021.