The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has the potential to deliver significant business opportunities for Cambodia, given that the 16 RCEP participating countries contribute about 30 percent of global GDP and more than a quarter of world exports, said a Commerce Ministry official yesterday.
“RCEP will help Cambodia achieve more open markets and cement better trade relationships with the other nine members of ASEAN and also regional trade partners, including South Korea, Japan, China, India, Australia and New Zealand – all RCEP participating countries,” Tekreth Kamrang, the ministry’s secretary of state, told a capacity building workshop for government officers to strengthen their international trade negotiations skills.
Kamrang said she was confident that the RCEP talks will be concluded by the end of the year and government officers “should rise to the occasion to broaden and deepen their understanding of the economic partnership so that they can be better equipped to negotiate trade agreements, on behalf of the kingdom, with the 16 RCEP participating nations”.
“Almost half of the world’s population are in RCEP and they contribute about 30 per cent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports,” she said. “RCEP will provide a framework aimed at lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region.”
The RCEP was first mooted by China. Talks began in early 2013 and are still ongoing. “RCEP is likely to have a variety of impacts on ASEAN,” Shintaro Hamanaka wrote recently in an Asian Development Bank working paper on regional economic integration.
“In particular, RCEP recognises ASEAN centrality, though this is conveniently interpreted by China to exclude the United States since it does not have a free trade agreement with the regional grouping,” he said.
However, he warned that ASEAN’s centrality would not be assured inside RCEP, where it could be possibly sidelined by larger and more powerful economies such as China and Japan.
Although the RCEP talks are yet to be completed, all Asean members have reaffirmed the push for tariff reductions covering not fewer than 90 percent of all products in the RCEP for between 5,000 to 6,000 kinds of products over the next 15 years, as well the conclusion of talks late this year.
David Van, managing director of Cambodia for Bower Group Asia, told Khmer Times previously that many Asean signatories were already shifting their support to the larger RCEP.
“It emphasises the fact that in this 21st century, trade growth is increasingly driven by intra-Asian trade flow,” said Mr Van. However, he pointed out that under the Asean Free Trade Agreement rules, all Asean member states must slash their customs duties to zero.
“CLMV countries [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam] have been given additional time to implement the reduced tariff rates,” added Van. He pointed out that ASEAN had to work a lot harder to convince its private sector that its member states are “committed” to increasing intra-ASEAN trade.