Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which excludes China and India.
Presence in the world
RCEP potentially includes more than 3 billion people or 45% of the world's population, and a combined GDP of about $21.3 trillion, accounting for about 40 percent of world trade. The combined GDP of potential RCEP members surpassed the combined GDP of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) members in 2007. Continued growth, particularly in China, India and Indonesia could see total GDP in RCEP grow to over $100 trillion by 2050, roughly double the project size of TPP economies.
Guiding principles and objectives for negotiation
At the launch of negotiations on Tuesday, 20 November 2012, the leaders of each relevant country endorsed the "Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership." The key points of this document are as follows.
Scope of negotiations
RCEP will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical co-operation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues.
The RCEP will have broader and deeper engagement with significant improvements over the existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, while recognising the individual and diverse circumstances of the participating countries.
Negotiations for trade in goods
Negotiations should aim to achieve the high level of tariff liberalisation, through building upon the existing liberalisation levels between participating countries.
Negotiations for trade in services
The RCEP will be comprehensive, of high-quality and consistent with WTO rules and all service sectors will be subject to negotiations.
Negotiations for investment
Negotiations will cover the four pillars of promotion, protection, facilitation and liberalisation.
History and timeline
14–19 November 2011
- During the 19th ASEAN Summit in November 2011, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was introduced.
25 August - 1 September 2012
- During the 44th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Economic ministers from the 10 ASEAN countries and six partners agreed to declare by the end of 2012 the start of negotiation among the 16 nations on a free trade agreement, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP.
18–20 November 2012
- Leaders at the 21st ASEAN Summit in November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia endorsed the framework of RCEP and announced the launch of their negotiations.
Round 1: 9–13 May 2013 in Brunei
- Officials of the 16 governments participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – the 10 ASEAN Member States and its Free Trade Agreement Partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand) – met in Brunei Darussalam to start detailed negotiations aimed at concluding RCEP by the end of 2015.
- Consistent with the RCEP Leaders’ Joint Declaration on the Launch of Negotiations for the RCEP of 20 November 2012 and the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP endorsed by RCEP Ministers on 30 August 2012, the RCEP negotiations will aim to:
- achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement establishing an open trade and investment environment in the region to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and investment and contribute to global economic growth and development; and
- boost economic growth and equitable economic development, advance economic co-operation and broaden and deepen integration in the region through the RCEP, which will build upon our existing economic linkages.
Round 2: 23–27 September 2013 in Brisbane, Australia
- The second round of RCEP negotiations were going well during 23–27 September 2013 in Australia.
- Delegations primarily focused on trade in goods, trade in services and investment. They also engaged on economic and technical co-operation, competition, intellectual property, dispute settlement and other issues, in line with the RCEP Guiding Principles.
Round 3: 20–24 January 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- At the third round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations, the 16 participating countries pursued an intensive exchange of views to advance the negotiations to meet the target of concluding the negotiations by the end of 2015.
- Participating countries continued technical work on trade in goods, trade in services, and investment:
- On Trade in goods, participating countries conducted a constructive discussion on the modalities for the tariff negotiations, non-tariff measures, Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures (STRACAP), Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) as well as on Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation (CPTF) and Rules of Origin (ROO).
- On Trade in services, participating countries discussed the structure and elements of the RCEP Services Chapter, areas of market access interests and a number of specific issues at good length.
- On Investment, participating countries exchanged views on investment modalities and deliberated further on the elements for the RCEP Investment Chapter.
- To advance negotiations on the broad range of issues, four working groups were established, namely on;
- Intellectual Property
- Economic and Technical Cooperation
- Dispute Settlement
Some delegations made presentations on other issues that are of particular interest to some RCEP participating countries.
- Two Seminars were held at the sidelines of negotiations round.
- Malaysia and Japan organised a Seminar on Intellectual Property (IP), discussing a broad range of issues in IP and how IP may support trade and investment further.
- Australia organised a seminar on the cross cutting areas of Services and Investment. The participating countries had a good discussion on the issues.
Round 4: April 2014 in Nanning, China
Round 4 The 4th round of RCEP negotiations took place in Nanning, China 31 March – 4 April 2014. The participating countries continued intensive discussion on a range of issues to advance the negotiations.
Participating countries engaged on the development of trade in goods texts, intensified consideration of modalities to be used for tariff negotiations and continued discussions on non-tariff measures, Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures (STRACAP), Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) as well as on Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation (CPTF) and Rules of Origin (ROO).
On Trade in services, participating countries deliberated on the elements of text, the scope of provisions, the approach to scheduling market access commitments, market access commitments, and a number of other specific issues. On Investment, participating countries engaged in discussions on text, and an in-depth discussion on the elements including investment modalities.
At the Nanning meeting, the new working groups on Intellectual Property, Competition, and Economic and Technical Cooperation commenced their work. Other issues of particular interest to a number of RCEP participating countries were discussed. Experts met to discuss Dispute Settlement and broader legal and institutional issues. A formal working group will be established to continue these discussions at the next meeting.
Round 5: 23–27 June 2014 in Singapore
Round 6: 1–5 December 2014 in New Delhi
- 6th round of RCEP Trade Negotiation Committee(TNC) and related meetings took place 1–5 December 2014 in New Delhi, India
The Indians held an outreach event with their business community to educate them on the goals of RCEP. The Japanese asked to set up a workshop on e-Commerce.
Round 7: 9–13 February 2015 in Bangkok
- The 7th round of RCEP meetings took place in Bangkok 9–13 February 2015. An expert group on electronic commerce met during this round. The Asian Trade Centre (based in Singapore) submitted a proposal regarding an e-Commerce chapter and gave a presentation on the paper.
Round 8: 5–13 June 2015 in Kyoto
The 8th round of the RCEP talks took place in Kyoto, Japan 5–13 June.
Round 9: 3–7 August 2015 in Nay Pyi Taw
The 9th round of the RCEP talks took place in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar 3–7 August 2015
Round 10: October 2015 in South Korea
The 10th round of the RCEP talks took place in Busan, South Korea in 12–16 October 2015. The meetings took place at BEXCO (Busan's Convention and Exhibition Centre). This round included the first region wide stakeholder meeting (organized by the Singapore-based Asian Trade Centre) which involved an informal meeting between government officials and business representatives over lunch followed by an afternoon seminar focused on what RCEP can do to help business operate in the e-Commerce space.
Round 11: 15–19 February 2016 in Brunei
On February 14–19, the 11th round of negotiations of the RCEP was held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. This round of negotiation consisted of four group sessions: the first conference and trade in goods, service trade, investment, and rules for the country of origin. The conference focused on promoting the market access negotiation and the textual discussion, involving these 3 core fields: goods, service and investment. The conference was guided by the leader's instruction to strive to conclude the negotiations in 2016. It has preliminarily defined the negotiation plan of 2016. Representatives from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, the ASEAN ten countries and the ASEAN Secretariat attended this round of negotiation.
Round 12: April 2016 Location in Perth, Australia
On April 17–29, the 12th round of negotiation of RCEP was held in Perth, Australia. Delegations of 10 ASEAN countries, China, Japan, ROK, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Secretariat of ASEAN attended the meeting. All the parties had in-depth discussion on goods, service, investment, intellectual property, economic and technological cooperation, e-commerce and articles of law. The negotiation has gained positive progress.
Round 13: June 2016 Location in New Zealand
China is said to have triggered a sudden impasse in the recent trade negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in New Zealand. It led to some nations, particularly those belonging to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), pushing for dismantling of the three-tier system followed in the initial round of offers for goods liberalisation.
As part of India's current three-tier approach to tariff reduction, the Asean countries are being offered 80 per cent tariff liberalisation. Of this, 65 per cent elimination of tariff will come into force immediately after the agreement is implemented. Another 15 per cent tariff elimination will happen over a period of 10 years. In the second tier, India has offered 65 per cent tariff elimination to South Korea and Japan, with whom it has free trade agreements (FTAs). These two countries offered 80 per cent tariff elimination to India. In third tier, India has proposed 42.5 per cent reduction in tariff lines to China, Australia and New Zealand. These countries will offer India 42.5 per cent, 80 per cent and 65 per cent tariff lines reductions, respectively.
Round 15 October 11th-22th, 2016 in Tianjin, China
Relationship with other frameworks
East Asia Free Trade Agreement & Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia
The RCEP takes into account the East Asia Free Trade Agreement (EAFTA) and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) initiatives, with the difference that the RCEP is not working on a pre-determined membership. Instead, it is based on open accession which enables participation of any of the ASEAN FTA partners (China, Korea, Japan, India and Australia-New Zealand) at the outset or later when they are ready to join. The arrangement is also open to any other external economic partners, such as nations in Central Asia and remaining nations in South Asia and Oceania.
Trans Pacific Partnership
Along with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the RCEP is a possible pathway to a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, and a contribution to building momentum for global trade reform. Both the RCEP and TPP are ambitious FTAs and will involve complex negotiations as it involves multiple parties and sectors. The TPP and RCEP are potentially mutually-reinforcing parallel tracks for regional integration, which could ultimately lead to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.
The RCEP 16 countries
- the 10 members of ASEAN
- plus the three additional members of ASEAN Plus Three
Basic indicators of the RCEP 16 countries
Controversies and criticism
RCEP has been criticized by free culture activists for containing "quite simply the worst provisions on copyright that [...] ever seen in a trade agreement."
- East Asian Community
- East Asia Summit
- South Asian Free Trade Area
- FTA (Free Trade Agreement)
- TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)
- RCEP: Challenges and Opportunities for India, 25 July 2013, RSIS, Singapore
- RCEP: The next trade deal you need to know about, 14 October 2015, CNBC
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP): Issues and Way Forward 30 July 2013
- "Understanding and applying long-term GDP projections | EABER". www.eaber.org. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
- Announcement of the Launch of Negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Japan 20 November 2012
- Nineteenth ASEAN Summit, Bali, Indonesia | 14-19 November 2011
- ASEAN plus 6 agree to start RCEP talks | 09-01-2012
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Joint Statement The First Meeting of Trade Negotiating Committee | 10 May 2013
- Australia hosts second round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations in Brisbane
- Australia Hosts Second Round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations in Brisbane | HighBeam Research in US| 4 October 2013
- Media Release : 3rd Meeting of the RCEP Trade Negotiation Committee 20-24 January 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 27 Jan 2014 08:40 AM | The Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia
- "5th negotiation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP)". Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Welcome Address
- What is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)? Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore November 2012
- "RCEP: The Other Closed-Door Agreement to Compromise Users' Rights". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2016-04-28.