Significant progress on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Leaders of 16 countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have announced the completion of negotiation on the text as well as agreement on virtually all market access issues between 15 countries.

The leaders said they will work with India to resolve its outstanding concerns in a way that would satisfy the interests of all participants. The aim is that India will join the agreement in 2020, once it has concluded market access negotiations with all the other participants.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed this significant milestone, which was announced by RCEP countries today at the East Asia Summit in Bangkok.

“RCEP will increase New Zealand exporters’ security in the region, while protecting their competitive interests in countries which include 7 of New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“This also provides an important boost to the regional economy at a time of rising turbulence and slowing global trade and economic growth,” Jacinda Ardern said.

For New Zealand businesses and investors, this means:

  • More certain and consistent rules on trading across all the RCEP economies
  • More transparent and clear rules about investing in the largest ASEAN countries, and  China
  • Increased opportunities and clearer rules on services exports to the RCEP economies;
  • Reduced red tape for exporters, and more streamlined facilitation of trade; and
  • New rules on government procurement and electronic commerce, which will help New Zealand exporters with increased business opportunities.

“RCEP also has the potential to provide us a free trade relationship with India, a large and fast-growing US$2.7 trillion economy. Being part of this agreement helps secure New Zealand’s prosperity in the region,” Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor said.

“The RCEP participants take 61 percent of our goods exports and 50 percent of our services exports. RCEP is of considerable commercial and strategic value to New Zealand,” Damien O’Connor said. 

There are two strands to the RCEP negotiations, the text of the agreement and market access to each country involved. With the text completed, negotiations on market access will now continue with the aim of the full agreement being concluded and signed in 2020.

“While some market access is yet to be completed, there remains a clear intent by the 16 participating countries to conclude this agreement together,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“It is regrettable negotiating partners were unable to conclude an acceptable market access outcome with India at this time,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“However, New Zealand respects India’s right to take its own decisions on the Agreement. We will continue to work closely with India to seek to agree a market access outcome that is commercially meaningful and which will enable India to join the other RCEP parties,” Jacinda Ardern said.