Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Type Trade agreement
Effective Not in force

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 free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.[1] The free trade agreement is scheduled and expected to be signed in November 2018 during the ASEAN Summit and Related Summit in Singapore, after the first RCEP summit was held on 14 November 2017 in Manila, Philippines.[2] RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement which includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.[3]

In 2017, prospective RCEP member states accounted for a population of 3.4 billion people with a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP, PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 39 percent of the world's GDP,[4] with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than half that amount. It is the world's largest trading bloc, covering nearly half of the global economy.[5] According to estimates by PwC, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP, PPP) of RCEP member states is likely to amount to nearly $250 trillion by 2050, or a quarter of a quadrillion dollars, with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than 75% the amount. RCEP's share of the global economy could account for half of the estimated $0.5 quadrillion global GDP (PPP) by 2050.



The 16 member countries of the RCEP
Purple: ASEAN Plus Three
Teal: ASEAN Plus Six

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.[6]

The RCEP 16 countries


Basic indicators of the RCEP 16 countries

Flag Country
Population Nominal GDP
(millions of US$)
GDP per cap.
(Nominal, US$)
(millions of Int$)
GDP per cap.
(PPP, Int$)
HDI Currency
Official languages Leaders
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Australia
Commonwealth of Australia
Canberra 7,692,024 24,419,900 1,482,282 55,215 1,296,075 50,817 0.939 Australian dollar ($)
National and de facto: English
Monarch: Elizabeth II
Governor-General: Peter Cosgrove
Prime Minister: Malcolm Turnbull
Flag of Brunei.svg Brunei
Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace
Negara Brunei Darussalam
Bandar Seri Begawan 5,765 417,200 11,991 28,740 33,756 76,567 0.865 Brunei dollar ($)
Malay Monarch: Hassanal Bolkiah
Flag of Cambodia.svg Cambodia
Kingdom of Cambodia
Preăh Réachéanachâk Kâmpŭchéa
Phnom Penh 181,035 15,626,444 24,307 1,308 69,884 4,022 0.563 Cambodian riel ()
Khmer Monarch: Norodom Sihamoni
Prime Minister: Hun Sen
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
People's Republic of China
Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó
Beijing 9,596,961 1,382,580,000 13,118,689 9,489 25,102,916 18,158 0.738 Renminbi (Chinese yuan, ¥)
Standard Chinese
written in simplified characters
see also: Languages of China
Premier: Li Keqiang
President: Xi Jinping
Flag of India.svg India
Republic of India
Bhārat Gaṇarājya
New Delhi 3,287,263 1,314,470,000 2,654,165 1,850 10,339,552 7,153 0.624 Indian rupee ()
21 other official languages
see also: Languages of India
President: Ram Nath Kovind
Prime Minister: Narendra Modi
Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesia
Republic of Indonesia
Republik Indonesia
Jakarta 1,910,931 263,510,000 1,092,138 3,895 3,481,107 12,432 0.689 Indonesian rupiah (Rp)
see also: Languages of Indonesia
President: Joko Widodo
Flag of Japan.svg Japan
Tokyo 377,930 126,760,000 5,063,129 38,281 5,545,884 42,860 0.903 Japanese yen (¥)
Japanese Monarch: Akihito
Prime Minister: Shinzō Abe
Flag of Laos.svg Laos
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
Vientiane 236,800 6,492,400 18,674 2,051 53,626 6,115 0.586 Lao kip ()
Lao Prime Minister: Thongloun Sisoulith
President: Bounnhang Vorachith
Flag of Malaysia.svg Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
Putrajaya (administrative)
330,803 32,019,500 340,923 9,623 988,993 28,636 0.789 Malaysian ringgit (RM)
see also: Languages of Malaysia
Monarch: Muhammad V
Prime Minister: Najib Razak
Flag of Myanmar.svg Myanmar (Burma)
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Pyidaunzu Thanmăda Myăma Nainngandaw
Naypyidaw 676,578 54,836,000 74,002 1,374 362,969 6,360 0.556 Burmese kyat (K)
see also: Languages of Myanmar
President: Htin Kyaw
State Counsellor: Aung San Suu Kyi
Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand
Wellington 270,467 4,786,710 215,172 41,107 195,103 38,706 0.915 New Zealand dollar ($)
Monarch: Elizabeth II
Governor-General: Patsy Reddy
Prime Minister: Bill English
Flag of the Philippines.svg Philippines
Republic of the Philippines
Republika ng Pilipinas
Manila 300,000 103,874,000 357,792 3,102 951,224 8,270 0.682 Philippine peso ()
Filipino (Tagalog)
President: Rodrigo Duterte
Flag of Singapore.svg Singapore
Republic of Singapore
Republik Singapura
Xīnjiāpō Gònghéguó
Ciṅkappūr Kuṭiyaracu
719 5,607,300 316,872 51,431 537,447 90,724 0.925 Singapore dollar ($)
see also: Languages of Singapore
President: Halimah Yacob
Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong
Flag of South Korea.svg South Korea
Republic of Korea
Daehan Minguk
Seoul 100,210 51,446,201 1,597,392 29,114 2,127,164 39,446 0.901 South Korean won ()
Korean Prime Minister: Lee Nak-yeon
President: Moon Jae-in
Flag of Thailand.svg Thailand
Kingdom of Thailand
Ratcha-anachak Thai
Bangkok 513,120 68,298,000 466,623 6,265 1,296,095 17,749 0.740 Thai baht (฿)
Thai Monarch: Vajiralongkorn
Prime Minister: Prayut Chan-o-cha
Flag of Vietnam.svg Vietnam
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Cộng hòa Xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam
Hanoi 331,212 92,700,000 234,688 2,305 697,752 6,925 0.683 Vietnamese đồng ()
Vietnamese Prime Minister: Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
President: Trần Đại Quang

Presence in the world

RCEP Population - 2012 : IMF - World Economic Outlook Databases (October 2013)
RCEP GDP - 2012 : IMF - World Economic Outlook Databases (October 2013)

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.[8] 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.[9]

GDP projections for potential RCEP member countries to 2050.[9]

On January 23, 2017, United States President Donald Trump signed a memorandum that stated withdrawal of the country from the TPP, a move which is seen to improve the chances of success for RCEP.[10]

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.

Commitment levels

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.

Participating countries

Participants will be ASEAN members and FTA Partners. After the completion of the negotiations, countries other than the 16 states may join.[11]

History and timeline

14–19 November 2011

  • During the 19th ASEAN Summit in November 2011, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was introduced.[12]

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.[13]

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.[11]

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:
  1. 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
  2. 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.[7]

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.[14]
  • 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.[15]

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:
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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;
  1. Intellectual Property
  2. Competition
  3. Economic and Technical Cooperation
  4. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. Australia organised a seminar on the cross cutting areas of Services and Investment. The participating countries had a good discussion on the issues.[16]

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.[17] 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: June 2014 in Singapore

The 5th RCEP negotiation round was held on 21–27 June 2014 in Singapore.[18]

Round 6: December 2014 in India

The 6th round of RCEP Trade Negotiation Committee(TNC) and related meetings took place 1–5 December 2014 in New Delhi, India[19] 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: February 2015 in Thailand

The 7th round of RCEP meetings took place in Bangkok, Thailand 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: June 2015 in Japan

The 8th round of the RCEP talks took place in Kyoto, Japan 5–13 June.

Round 9: August 2015 in Myanmar

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: 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.[20]

Round 12: April 2016 in 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.[21]

Round 13: June 2016 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.[22]

Round 14: August 2016 in Vietnam

The 14th round of RCEP negotiation was held on August 15–18 in Vietnam.

Round 15: October 2016 in China

The 15th round of RCEP negotiation was held on October 11–22 in Tianjin, China. [23]

Round 16: December 2016 in Indonesia

The 16th round of negotiations of RCEP was held on December 6–10 in Tangerang, Indonesia.

Round 17: February-March 2017 in Japan

The 17th round of negotiations of RCEP was held in Kobe, from February 27 to March 3 in Kobe, Japan.

Round 18: May 2017 in Philippines

The 18th round of RCEP negotiation was held on May 8–12 in Manila, Philippines.[24]

Round 19: July 2017 in India

The 19th round of RCEP negotiation was held on July 24–28 in Hyderabad, India.

The 16 countries agreed to constitute a Working Group on government procurement to take forward negotiations on the topic and include it as a separate chapter in the final agreement. They, however said India would not given in to the demands from these countries for "market access and national treatment (equal treatment of foreign and local firms)" pertaining to government procurement in the RCEP agreement, and not even undertake any commitment on a "best endeavour basis. "Even in India's separate FTAs with Japan, South Korea and Singapore (that are already in force), "market access and national treatment" have been kept out of the government procurement chapter. The maximum extent that India could go to, is to agree to ensure transparency and cooperation in government procurement matters (including information exchange and sharing of knowledge) as part of the RCEP agreement.

Round 20: First RCEP summit (November 2017) in Philippines

The first RCEP summit was held on Nov 14 in Manila, Philippines.[25][26]

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.[6]

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,[6] which could ultimately lead to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Controversies and criticism

RCEP has been criticized by free culture activists for containing "quite simply the worst provisions on copyright [...] ever seen in a trade agreement."[27] Global health care activists have criticized the agreement for potentially forcing India to end its cheap supply of generic medications to poor countries.[28]

See also


  1. ^ RCEP: Challenges and Opportunities for India, 25 July 2013, RSIS, Singapore
  2. ^ "RCEP likely to be signed in November 2018: PM". 
  3. ^ RCEP: The next trade deal you need to know about, 14 October 2015, CNBC
  4. ^ Stefani Ribka/Linda Yulisman (December 7, 2016). "RCEP talks speed up amid TPP failure". 
  5. ^ "Najib: RCEP likely to be signed in Nov 2018". 15 November 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c What is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)? Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore November 2012[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Joint Statement The First Meeting of Trade Negotiating Committee | 10 May 2013
  8. ^ Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP): Issues and Way Forward 30 July 2013
  9. ^ a b "Understanding and applying long-term GDP projections | EABER". Retrieved 2016-06-17. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ a b Announcement of the Launch of Negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Japan 20 November 2012 Archived 14 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Nineteenth ASEAN Summit, Bali, Indonesia | 14-19 November 2011 Archived 29 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ ASEAN plus 6 agree to start RCEP talks | 09-01-2012
  14. ^ Australia hosts second round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations in Brisbane Archived 3 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Australia Hosts Second Round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations in Brisbane | HighBeam Research in US| 4 October 2013
  16. ^ 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 Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "Fourth Round of Negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)". Joint press release of Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2014-04-04. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ Welcome Address
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Najib: RCEP likely to be signed in Nov 2018". 15 November 2017. 
  26. ^ "Now push RCEP, Abe-san". The Straits Times. 24 November 2017. 
  27. ^ "RCEP: The Other Closed-Door Agreement to Compromise Users' Rights". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  28. ^ Chandran, Nyshka (2017-01-12). "China-backed trade deal may not gain from TPP's loss. Blame India". CNBC. 

External link

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), ASEAN
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