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China to accelerate domestic steps for RCEP implementation

Wang Keju
Updated: Dec 02,2020 09:51 PM

China will intensify domestic efforts for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to take effect and get implemented, to uphold free trade and expand win-win cooperation, the State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Dec 1.

The RCEP, recently signed at the leaders’ meetings on East Asia cooperation, is of great significance for participating countries to jointly tackle uncertainties in the international landscape, increase intra-regional trade and investment, stabilize industrial and supply chains, enhance people’s well-being, and facilitate China’s high-level opening-up.

“The RCEP, as the largest global free trade agreement, brings benefits to all participating countries and serves as the most effective way to guard against uncertainties,” Premier Li said.

The meeting on Dec 1 required related departments to fulfill due responsibilities in specifying task division and time frames in accordance with the agreement, and accelerating domestic ratification procedures. Openness will be stepped up in areas including trade in goods, trade in services, investment and flow of natural persons, and higher standards will be applied in terms of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, intellectual property rights protection, trade remedy, e-commerce, government procurement, small and medium-sized enterprises, and economic and technical cooperation.

As much as 90 percent of intra-regional trade in goods will be made tariff-free when the agreement is implemented. Policy measures will be swiftly formulated on tariff concessions, simplified customs clearance procedures, technical preparations for rules of origin and harmonization and mutual recognition of product standards. Customs clearance within six hours will be made possible for express delivery and perishable goods.

Overall openness of trade in services pledged in the agreement is significantly higher than in any other existing free trade agreements among the participating countries. Opening-up measures in various service sectors will be drafted and implemented in line with the new commitments, including research and development, management and consulting, manufacturing-related services, elderly care services, specialized design, and construction. A negative list on foreign investment will be delivered as pledged, and no additional restrictions outside the list should be imposed.

Comprehensive protection of intellectual property rights, the first such commitment in a free trade agreement, will be fulfilled with copyrights, trademarks, geographical indications, patents and genetic resources fully incorporated in the scope of protection. Provisions involving electronic authentication and signature, online personal information protection, cybersecurity and cross-border electronic information transmission will be executed.

“As a participating country, China must take active efforts for the agreement to go into effect. This will demonstrate China’s support for openness, multilateralism and free trade,” Premier Li said.

Rules and regulations related to RCEP implementation will be sorted out expeditiously. The binding obligations stipulated in the agreement must be fulfilled properly, to ensure compliance regarding domestic administrative measures and procedures.

The meeting also decided on steps to strengthen outreach and training toward localities, business associations and enterprises, to familiarize all quarters, especially enterprises, with the rules of the agreement, and shape deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges brought by opening-up and competition on a larger scale and with higher standards. The enterprises are encouraged to expand cooperation and development in market competition.

“China treats the signing of RCEP as a major step to further expand opening-up. We will make all preparations and take concrete actions to deliver on our commitments,” Premier Li said.