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Say hello to the newest and biggest trading bloc
The TLDR: Fifteen countries have come together to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership—the world’s largest trading bloc. It is a huge win for China and a sign of the increasing irrelevance of the United States—which was never invited to the party. India isn’t part of this new powerhouse either, having opted out of the treaty negotiations last year. Smart move or self goal? We explain.
What is this treaty?
The fifteen partner countries include 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. RCEP negotiations began back in 2012 and it was finally signed on Sunday on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting.
How it works: Now, while RCEP is far bigger, it doesn’t create a unified market like the EU.
The agreement will eliminate 90% of tariffs on imports between signatory nations within 20 years—and establish common rules for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.
It doesn’t do as much in the area of services—i.e. make it easier to seek employment in member countries.
It allows countries to keep import tariffs for sectors they deem as important or sensitive.
Most importantly, it does not set common standards for labour laws or environmental protections.
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