Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation through RCEP

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is the world’s largest trade agreement. The agreement includes ASEAN states and China, Japan, as well as Korea. 

It took years for nations to negotiate and there were high hopes that the agreement would spur Asian and ASEAN trade. However, utilisation of RCEP has been low and Intra-ASEAN trade has not expanded much either.

I attended the Roundtable on Strengthening Economic Cooperation through RCEP in Vientiane, Laos.

Participants at the Roundtable echoed and endorsed the view of Professor Mari Pangestu, Indonesia’s former Trade Minister and one of the key architects of RCEP, that

  1. ASEAN has to provide leadership for RCEP;
  2. RCEP has to be perceived as ASEAN-led; and, 
  3. More has to be done to expand intra-ASEAN trade. 

The Roundtable is organised by East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at the Australian National University, and co-chaired by HE Dr. Manothong Vongsay, Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce, Laos, and Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale of ANU.

Laos is the ASEAN Chair for this year.

I spoke about the need for RCEP members to ensure that countries such as Laos derive genuine benefits from RCEP. And in order to help the latecomer states to grow its trade, industrial policy should be viewed positively as a policy tool.   

I cherish the opportunity to discuss regional trade issues with policy makers, experts, and government officials. Appreciate the invitation by the ANU team.

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