New Zealand signs Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Trade and Export Growth
  • Increase to New Zealand’s GDP by around $2 billion (overall)
  • Increase opportunities for NZ exporters to access regional markets
  • Cuts red tape and offers one set of trade rules across the Asia Pacific region
  • New government procurement, competition policy and electronic commerce offers NZ exporters increased business opportunities

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor have announced the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was today fully concluded and signed.

RCEP is a trade agreement between 15 economies in the Asia Pacific region that are home to almost a third of the world’s population and take over half of New Zealand’s exports.

“Securing free trade agreements like RCEP is an important part of New Zealand’s Trade Recovery Strategy, helping to put New Zealand in the best possible position to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and seize new opportunities for exports and investment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“A range of New Zealand industries will directly benefit from this new agreement, helping us to accelerate our economic recovery and build back better. These include the education sector, with new access opportunities into large ASEAN economies such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

“Our primary industries will also profit – with the new expectation that Customs authorities will release perishable goods within six hours of arrival, helping to reduce spoilage and save money. And the meat industry specifically will benefit from the elimination of tariffs on some meat products into Indonesia.

“This free trade agreement also holds significant strategic value for New Zealand, by strengthening and deepening our relationships across the RCEP region,” Jacinda Ardern said.

New Zealand exported over $36 billion of goods to RCEP countries and nearly $12 billion of services in the year ending December 31, 2019.

Today, Damien O’Connor signed RCEP alongside Ministers from ASEAN Member States, Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea during a virtual ceremony, witnessed by Leaders of the 15 RCEP countries.

India withdrew from the negotiations last year and did not sign the agreement today. A fast-track process for India’s accession has been established, should it wish to re-join RCEP in the future.

“This agreement will secure market access for New Zealand exporters to a region which includes seven of New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners,” Damien O’Connor said. “RCEP is projected to add $186 billion to the world economy.”

For New Zealand exporters, businesses and investors this means:

  • A single set of trade and investment rules across the entire RCEP region, increasing certainty and reducing complexity that comes from different rules with different partners.
  • The opportunity for our exporters to get their products into RCEP-wide regional value chains, increasing demand for New Zealand inputs into the engine room of the world economy.
  • More market access opportunities, especially for services and investment into China and some ASEAN member states.
  • Less red tape for exporters, and more streamlined trade; and
  • New rules on government procurement, competition policy and electronic commerce, which will help New Zealand exporters take advantage of increased business opportunities.

“As a party to RCEP, New Zealand has a seat at the table of this globally significant regional economic agreement, providing the opportunity to cooperate on a broad range of economic and emerging issues. It shores up support for international trade rules which small countries like New Zealand rely on, at a time when we’re seeing increasing protectionism,” Damien O’Connor said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has released the legally verified text of RCEP, and a National Interest Analysis. The National Interest Analysis assesses the likely costs and benefits for New Zealand entering into RCEP, and will soon be presented to Parliament, together with the RCEP text.

These documents and information on the RCEP are available here.