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Member countries push for early conclusion of RCEP

Asian trade ministers, negotiating Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), have concluded their meeting on Monday in Hanoi, raising their voice in favour of free trade.

RCEP, if translates into reality, will be the world s largest free trade agreement. It covers more than half of world s population.

The 16 member RCEP comprises of all ASEAN(Association of South East Asian Nations) countries and six states with which it has existing free trade agreements ( China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand).

Chairing the meeting Vietnamese Trade Minister said that the RCEP Agreement will convey a strong message for opening up and economic integration amidst the recent trends of going back to protectionism. This is all the more significant in the context of US withdrawal from Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) which it has been leading in the past. US withdrew after Trump took over the administration who termed TPP as a job killer for American youth. TPP was billed as the world s biggest trade pact at the time of it s signing in February 2016.

Critics view RCEP as another arena in which China could exert it s economic might in the region. RCEP is a much more modest deal compared to TPP, as it prescribes more limited regulatory standards. However after US withdrawal from TPP, chances of success of RCEP has been improved significantly.

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