China, Japan, Korea and 15 other countries sign regional comprehensive economic partnership agreement

After eight years of negotiations, leaders of 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) at the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam yesterday. The agreement, which covers nearly half of the world’s population, marks the establishment of the world’s largest free trade area.

The countries that signed the agreement include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam). India announced its withdrawal from the agreement in November last year.

The agreement is also the first trade agreement between China and Japan, Japan and South Korea, and China, Japan and South Korea.

Speaking via telepresence, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the agreement was a milestone, establishing the world’s most populous FTA with the most diverse membership structure and the greatest potential for development. This is not only a landmark achievement in East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory for multilateralism and free trade.

According to the Ministry of Finance of China, the tariff concessions among members are based on the commitment to reduce tariffs to zero immediately and within 10 years, and the FTA is expected to achieve significant milestones in a relatively short period of time.