One of the world´s largest free-trade deals in history, theRegional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),was signed last November 15, after eight years of negotiations.
It is composedof fifteen countries (all ten members of ASEAN -Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam-, plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand), that will create a free trade area encompassing 28% of the global economy, 30% of the global population and reaching 2.2 billion consumers.
The deal is estimated to increase the global national income by $186 bn annually by 2030 and to add 0.2% to the economy of its member states and aims to progressively lower tariffs, reduce protectionism and boost investment. Furthermore, it will allow for one set of rules of origin to qualify for tariff reductions with other RCEP members (a common set of regulations mean less procedures, therefore easier movement of goods).
Leaving aside the economic size ofthe deal, it marks the first time China, Japan and South Korea have been in a single free trade agreement, and it also marks the first time China enters a nonbilateral free trade agreement of this scale.
Moreover, RCEP aligns with China´s “dual circulation” vision, refocusing on domestic demand while taking advantage of trade and foreign investment. It must also be noted that ASEAN has become China’s largest trading partner followed by the EU and the United States.
The RCEP is indeed a big victory for China, since it will extend its influence in the region, to the detriment of the US. In this sense, even though the negotiations to establish the RCEP started in 2012, much before President Donald Trump, it is undeniable that Trump´s protectionism has encouraged this agreement. In this regard, President Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shortly after taking office, and started in 2018 a counterproductive trade war with China that did not only affect the two countries, but also the economies of many countries tightly integrated into the global value chain.