RCEP platform brings regional integration, ensures transparency, predictability, says Apec secretariat director

Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria said even though RCEP was negotiated in a different world, during the pre-pandemic, it is a living document to ensure that the investment environment in the future becomes more transparent and predictable. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Tan Sri Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria said even though RCEP was negotiated in a different world, during the pre-pandemic, it is a living document to ensure that the investment environment in the future becomes more transparent and predictable. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is relevant in today’s world which revolves around the Covid-19 pandemic as it is a platform for regional integration, getting together and figuring how to come out from the pandemic situation.

Executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Secretariat, Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Sta Maria said even though RCEP was negotiated in a different world, during the pre-pandemic, it is a living document to ensure that the investment environment in the future becomes more transparent and predictable.

“Although no one anticipated the pandemic and how it would impact global value chains, we knew that we needed to get our supply chains more connected, and that regional economic integration was going to be the way of the future especially now,” she said in a webinar session.

The webinar was organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) titled ‘IDEAS Asean Prosperity Initiative Forum 2020: Post-Pandemic Recovery for Asean’.

Rebecca said the RCEP was a complex agreement that took eight years to conclude as part of the complication was because the members (Asean plus one) did not have a free trade agreement (FTA) among themselves.

“The value here is that the leadership of Asean was able to bring these parties to the table to negotiate an agreement between themselves which they could not do on their own, and this include China, Japan and South Korea, where they have been talking of a FTA among themselves,” she said.

She also noted that unlike the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, where the agreement in general is equal in terms of rules and disciplines, RCEP is a model for inclusive trade agreements, bringing disparate parties with different economic models and political models to the table for one agreement to find common ground.

RCEP is a free trade agreement between the Asia-Pacific nations of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On a different note, to get the borders opening up again, visiting senior fellow in the Regional Economic Studies Programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) — Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, Jayant Menon said Asean, RCEP and Apec could play a role in turning the bilateral travel bubble into regional travel balloons.

This, he said, is through harmonising and mutual recognition of quarantine and other protocols to boost not just intra regional but also extra regional flows.

“If you recognise quarantine reduction or exemptions undertaken in one country and other countries, you could revive regional tourism and help boost recovery,” said Jayant.

While for countries that have not controlled community transmission, it could be recognised on a non-reciprocal basis.

“They should do that to also have their economies boosted, but they cannot expect there will be reciprocity at this stage, until they control the community spread,” he added. — Bernama

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