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Sun Nov 15 06:13:11


Asia forms world's biggest trade bloc, a China-backed group excluding U.S.

4 Min Read

HANOI (Reuters) - Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies formed the world’s largest free trade bloc on Sunday, a China-backed deal that excludes the United States, which had left a rival Asia-Pacific grouping under President Donald Trump.

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at a regional summit in Hanoi, is a further blow to the group pushed by former U.S. president Barack Obama, which his successor Trump exited in 2017.

Amid questions over Washington’s engagement in Asia, RCEP may cement China’s position more firmly as an economic partner with Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea, putting the world’s second-biggest economy in a better position to shape the region’s trade rules.

The United States is absent from both RCEP and the successor to the Obama-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), leaving the world’s biggest economy out of two trade groups that span the fastest-growing region on earth.

By contrast, RCEP could help Beijing cut its dependence on overseas markets and technology, a shift accelerated by a deepening rift with Washington, said Iris Pang, ING chief economist for Greater China.

RCEP groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It aims in coming years to progressively lower tariffs across many areas.

The deal was signed on the sidelines of an online ASEAN summit held as Asian leaders address tensions in the South China Sea and tackle plans for a post-pandemic economic recovery in a region where U.S.-China rivalry has been rising.

In an unusual ceremony, held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of RCEP countries took turns standing behind their trade ministers who, one by one, signed copies of the agreement, which they then showed triumphantly to the cameras.

“RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery,” said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Vietnam, which hosted the ceremony as ASEAN chair.

RCEP will account for 30% of the global economy, 30% of the global population and reach 2.2 billion consumers, Vietnam said.


China’s finance ministry said the new bloc’s promises include eliminating some tariffs within the group, including some immediately and others over 10 years.

There were no details on which products and which countries would see immediate reduction in tariffs.

“For the first time, China and Japan reached a bilateral tariff reduction arrangement, achieving a historic breakthrough,” the ministry said in a statement, without giving further details.

The deal marks the first time rival East Asian powers China, Japan and South Korea have been in a single free trade agreement.

Despite being outside RCEP and having been in the administration that propelled the TPP, President-elect Joe Biden - Obama’s vice president - is unlikely to rejoin the TPP anytime soon, analysts said, as his government will have to prioritise handling the COVID-19 outbreak at home.

“I’m not sure that there will be much focus on trade generally, including efforts to rejoin” the TPP successor grouping, “for the first year or so because there will be such a focus on COVID relief,” Charles Freeman, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said this month.

RCEP “will help reduce or remove tariffs on industrial and agricultural products and set out rules for data transmission,” said Luong Hoang Thai, head of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department at Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The pact will take effect once enough participating countries ratify the agreement domestically within the next two years, Indonesia’s trade minister said last week.

For China, the new group, including many U.S. allies, is a windfall largely resulting from Trump’s retreat from the TPP, said ING’s Pang.

India pulled out of RCEP talks in November last year, but ASEAN leaders said the door remained open for it to join.
Sun Nov 15 06:56:11
Trump is gonna get envious. But the US has the NAFTA or the USMCA , so I don’t see why Asia can’t have their own trade agreement.
The Children
Sun Nov 15 13:42:18
this is amazing. maga, make asia great again.
Sun Nov 15 14:15:29
Trump would approve.

Paramount, This shows your lack of knowledge on Trumps views on trade agreements.

He isnt an isolationist. He is against large multinational trade agreements.

His basic reasoning is that yhr US can get a better deal with the US/Vietnamese trade deal than with 15 countries.

Plus those sorts of agreements have the flaw of enforcement. If it's just the US and Vietnam and Vietnam breaks the agreement, the US can retaliate by adding tarriffs.

In large multination agreements the down side is its a lot more difficult to make a nation compliant.Nations can often hide amongst mutual benefits.
Sun Nov 15 14:37:47
But Vietnam would likely get a better deal if they were a part of an Asian Union. The US wouldn’t be able to bottom feed on smaller economies and negotiations and deals would be more equal and fair I think.

Also, negotiating with one block must be more efficient (it saves time and money?) instead of negotiating with 15 different countries?
Sun Nov 15 14:44:09
Vietnam may* get a better deal But again disputes ate more difficult when someone isnt compliant.

But its definitley far less efficient, you have too get 15 different nations to agree to something instead of 2.
werewolf dictator
Sun Nov 15 14:55:46
"free trade" is for suckers
Sun Nov 15 15:01:48
” But its definitley far less efficient, you have too get 15 different nations to agree to something ”

It may be less efficient for the European Union and the Asian Union etc. But more efficient for the US who would only have to negotiate with 1 instead of with 15+.
Sun Nov 15 15:04:40
Fair trade is the best. Except for bottom feeders.
Sun Nov 15 15:15:40

That explains Trumps take on the agreements better than I can.

I still dont see it as more efficient. They end up being much more complicated and less compliant agreements.

Some things are more efficient, like using the Euro instead of 30 different currencies. But tax rates and standards are still different.

It does benefit some smaller nations, particularly ones that offer nothing special.

Sun Nov 15 15:16:35
Anyway, this is probably a loser long term for China.Let them have it.
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