It’s time we paid attention to RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
RPTPP was tough; this is even tougher.
It’s a proposed trade agreement between Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
If agreed, its countries would account for about half of the economic output of the world.
The guiding principles for the agreement were set way back in 2012.
They completed negotiating round 22 in Singapore in March, had further talks in July, and they are pretty ambitious in the agreement timeline for this year.
Clearly this comes as the threat of a global trade war looms after the United States imposed tariffs that affect imports from China, Europe, Turkey, and Canada, among others.
I can’t yet figure out how RCEP overlaps with CPTPP. Perhaps we have some trade experts among us who can assist. An agreement would sure one in the eye for the United States, who appears keen to isolate itself from international diplomacy and international trade frameworks as quickly as possible.
There is a push for some kind of agreement to come out of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore this coming November. Although there’s a chance that India will pull out before that.
They want tariff cuts to be ambitious and include products categories that are actually traded among parties.
They want rules of origin to be consistent across all 16 members and be helpful for companies. ROOs should allow firms to choose from regional value content (RVC) or changes in tariff heading.
They want an emphasis that trade facilitation is critical for firms. Customs procedures are as important for companies as tariff reductions and ROOs. RCEP is intended to promptly and fully implement the Bali TFA agreement.
As ever, New Zealand is seeking commercially meaningful access for goods, services, and investment. We also want modern rules which address contemporary business priorities, such as facilitating participation in regional supply chains and the use of electronic commerce. And we want ongoing cooperation mechanisms to support implementation and contribute to economic reform in the region. And (ahem) anything for dairy would be appreciated.
It is understood that some of the hurdles include e-commerce, intellectual property and market access to sectors such as agriculture. Sure hope we do better on agriculture than the last one.
You get a sense of our governments’ thinking between CPTPP and RCEP in this speech from Minister Parker from June this year.
However no official draft agreement has ever been put out to the public despite as usual transnational corporations getting regular briefings and opposing NGOs and civil society groups being shut out like all other citizens. Pretty hard not to be sceptical.
Now, I know there’s a lot to keep up with including the EU one, and the “Trade Conversation” that the government has set up is rolling through the country. But as with the China-NZ FTA, this big diplomatic effort confirms again that Asia is New Zealand’s social and economic destiny.