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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: Text Overview and Outlook for Entry into Force

  • Author Soo Hyun Oh
  • Series215
  • Date2021-06-24
At the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit held on November 15, 2020, Korea, China, Japan, Australia, New Zea-land and 10 ASEAN countries concluded and formally signed the agreement. The RCEP is called a “mega-FTA” because of its large scale involving 15 countries in Asia and the Oceania region, with the economies of RCEP-participating countries accounting for about 30% of the world's production, trade and population.

The RCEP agreement includes chapters on trade in goods and services, investment, SPS, TBT, e-commerce, intellectual property rights, as well as SMEs and cooperation, covering the entire economic relationship. Especially, the RCEP rules of origin integrate the various origin standards into a unified system, and have regional cumulative rules so that goods and materials of a member country which are used in the production of another good or material is considered as worked or processed in the region). In addition, a self-certification of origin by exporters or producers was introduced. Improvement of these origin rules is expected to increase the utilization of RCEP by companies and promote the formation of regional value chains. The e-commerce chapter can be evaluated to reflect most recent trade rules, including provisions for promoting cross-border e-commerce, such as paperless trade, electronic authentication, and trade facilitation using electronic signatures, as well as provisions related to the location of computer facilities and cross-border transfer of data. In addition, the intellectual property chapter includes provisions on the protection of IP rights covering copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, and patents.

The biggest significance of the RCEP agreement is that the world's largest mega-FTA was concluded amid the spread of new protectionism, and in the midst of the global economic slump due to COVID-19, thus providing an opportunity for economic recovery through regional free trade and expansion of investment. Korea is expected to be able to expand new markets and strengthen economic cooperation in the ASEAN region through the RCEP.

As for the entry into force of the RCEP, if at least six of the ASEAN signatories and three or more of the non-ASEAN signatories complete the domestic ratification procedure, the ratification agreement between the countries will enter into force 60 days later. So far, Singapore, China, Thailand and Japan have completed ratification. After completing the impact assessment by June, Korea is expected to be able to ratify it by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
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