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Importance of intl trade deal promoted

Xu Wei
Updated: Feb 09,2021 09:03 AM    China Daily

The State Council has underlined the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as an important move in efforts to boost domestic reform and opening-up, with officials and experts urging businesses to brace for challenges and opportunities arising from the world's largest trade pact.

In its executive meeting on Feb 3, China's Cabinet called for an acceleration of domestic institutional reforms to facilitate the implementation of the RCEP, with measures to quicken the formation of domestic regulations on rules of origin-key to defining where a product was made and for implementing trade policy measures, including tariff reductions-and guides on the rollout of the trade deal.

It was the third time the State Council convened an executive meeting to deliberate on the implementation of the trade pact since it was signed between 15 participating nations in November.

Trade between the RCEP signatories was worth $2.3 trillion in 2019, making the coalition the world's largest trading bloc. Member countries account for nearly one-third of the world's population and 29 percent of global GDP.

Participating nations, with a total population of 2.27 billion in 2019, registered a total GDP of $26 trillion and a total export volume of $5.2 trillion, both accounting for about 30 percent of the global total, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

By 2030, the trade pact is projected to add $500 billion to global exports and increase the national income of participating nations by $186 billion, according to the US-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.

China has made substantial progress in technical preparations for the rollout of the deal, with the legal review of the RCEP's provisions having been completed, the Cabinet noted.

Premier Li Keqiang said at the meeting that quicker implementation of the RCEP is critical in China's efforts to expand opening-up and advance reform.

Premier Li called for proactive measures to refine China's quality standards and manufacturing rules so that they can be on par with international industrial levels and help the sector move up to the medium-and high-end of global value chains.

The Cabinet meeting also adopted steps to bolster training to help businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to learn about the rules and tariff concessions in the deal.

Businesses must enhance their competition awareness and professionalism and improve their level of management to embrace new challenges and opportunities, Li said.

Zhu Chuan, an official with Chongqing Customs, said the RCEP will offer a significant boost to the automobile and electronics sector in the southwestern municipality.

Automakers there are set to reap benefits from the deal as it will slash tariffs for auto parts imported from Japan from 10 percent to 6 percent, he explained.

Meanwhile, with significant tariff reduction measures put in place for agricultural products, the deal is expected to significantly boost China's imports of fruit from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, meat from Australia, dairy products from New Zealand and seafood products from Japan, he said.

Chongqing, for example, imported consumer products worth 6.21 billion yuan ($961 million) from RCEP member nations last year, up by 46.9 percent year-on-year-about 35.1 percent of its total imports in this category, Customs data showed.

"With the implementation of the RCEP, we expect the city to scale up the category and volume of consumer goods from member states," he said.

Liu Ying, a senior researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said the RCEP can create fiercer competition in the Chinese market with domestic industries set to come under greater pressure for survival and development.

"It is also a process that spurs the upgrading of industries and spawns stronger reform measures," she said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic exerting profound influence over industry and supply chains, from both the demand and supply side, Liu said the RCEP provides the first opportunity to have a common trade platform on rules of origin among members, thus fostering significant regional integration and value-chain creation.

"With the cutting of its tariffs from the trade deal, China can further harness its attractiveness to foreign investment and continue to pursue high-level opening-up both in terms of trade in goods and in services," she said.