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PHNOM PENH, Aug 5 (Bernama) -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement would be a key contributor to the recovery strategy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to an ASEAN foreign ministers' joint communique released here on Friday.
In the joint communique issued after the 55th ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting (55th AMM) held here, the ministers welcomed the entry into force of the RCEP from Jan 1, 2022.
"The RCEP would make significant contribution to our recovery strategy and continue to support an inclusive and open trade and investment architecture in the region," the communique said, reported Xinhua.
The ministers also welcomed the outcomes of the first RCEP Joint Committee (RJC) Meeting in April, which discussed the preparation of RCEP implementation, including the establishment of the committees to monitor RCEP implementation and the endorsement of the key elements on the establishment of the RCEP secretariat.
On Wednesday Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen proposed the establishment of a standalone secretariat in Phnom Penh to maximise the potential of the RCEP.
The RCEP comprises 15 Asia-Pacific countries including 10 ASEAN member states -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and their five trading partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The mega-regional pact will eliminate as much as 90 per cent of the tariffs on goods traded among its signatories over the next 20 years.
Being the world's largest trade bloc, the RCEP established a market of 2.2 billion people, or 30 per cent of the world population with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$26.2 trillion which represents around 30 per cent of global GDP and 28 per cent of global trade.
According to an Asian Development Bank's study, the RCEP will increase the member economies' incomes by 0.6 per cent by 2030, adding US$245 billion annually to regional income and 2.8 million jobs to regional employment.
Cambodian Ministry of Commerce's undersecretary of state and spokesman Penn Sovicheat said the RCEP would inject a new impetus into regional and global economic growth in the long term.
"The RCEP will give a big boost to our economy in the post-pandemic era," he told Xinhua. "It is also a well-timed intervention in Cambodia's quest for a Least Developed Country (LDC) graduation, likely by 2028 and the country's planned endeavour to achieve the upper-middle income and high-income statuses by 2030 and 2050 respectively."
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the RCEP is instrumental in subverting creeping unilateralism because it pulls all bilateral free trade agreements into one economic sphere under one blanket trade ruling.
"It is the most ambitious regional free trade agreement in Asia in which China has played a vital role in converting Asian economy into a core economic polar aimed at averting protectionism and the widespread negative impacts of the trade war.”
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