RCEP: Can Multilateralism Lead to Economic Growth in Asia Pacific?

June 21, 2022

RCEP: Can Multilateralism Lead to Economic Growth in Asia Pacific?

Since the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership entered into force in Jan 2022, its impacts are largely unknown. This report brings together the insights from 20 experts across 10 different Asia-Pacific countries analyzing how RCEP will change the economic and political landscape in the 21st century.

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Accounting for nearly a third of the world’s population and almost 30% of global GDP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), entered into force on January 1, 2022. This free trade agreement includes 15 countries from Asia Pacific, forming the world’s largest trading bloc. Initially conceived by ASEAN as a means of bringing its pre-existing regional trade partners together under a comprehensive economic agreement, RCEP is expected to add US$200 billion to global GDP annually by 2030.

This report is one of the first to bring together the insights from 20 experts across 10 different Asia-Pacific countries analyzing how RCEP will change the economic and political landscape in the 21st century. Leading ministers, diplomats, economists, political advisors, and business executives contributed to this timely report exploring the various opportunities and challenges this new agreement will bring to the region. It examines the likely impact on the region’s economy, politics, practical implications for businesses and the region’s future in the new digital economy. At a time when multilateralism is being challenged, will RCEP prove the skeptics wrong? Can it represent an opportunity to leverage liberalized trade and supply chain optimization while turbo-charging Asia Pacific’s economies?

CKGSB draws from its extensive network of partners in the region to offer exclusive insights and knowledge from the experts who have their fingers on the pulse of Asia’s latest economic developments. 

Table of Contents:

Is Asia the New World Order?

RCEP will form the world’s largest trading bloc, marking the beginning of what many experts refer to as the “Asia Century.” What geopolitical and economic shifts will take place to put Asia at the center of growth and power? 

1. RCEP: A Milestone in Multilateral Global Relations – Xiang Bing, Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization, CKGSB 

2. China’s New Challenges and Opportunities through RCEP – Tao Zhigang, Professor of Strategy and Economics and Associate Dean, CKGSB 

3. The Strategic Considerations of China Joining RCEP– Liang Wentao, Former Deputy Director General of the Department of Asia Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, PRC; CKGSB Executive MBA Program Alumnus

4. Thailand, ASEAN and RCEP: Opportunities for Further Integration – Dr. Piti Srisangnam, Director of Academic Affairs, ASEAN Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University 

5. RCEP is a Gargantuan Trade Deal but Will Economies be Able to Make the Most of It? – Jong Woo Kang, Principal Economist, Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Will RCEP Facilitate Asia’s Dominance of the Digital Economy?

RCEP is expected to speed up the development of cross-border e-commerce, which is shaping digital trade in the region. What roles will e-commerce, digital payments, AI and analytics play as economies digitally integrate under RCEP?

6. China’s Leading Role in Building RCEP’s Cross-Border Digital Payment System– Li Haitao, Dean’s Distinguished Chair Professor of Finance, Associate Dean for Business Scholars Program, Associate Dean for Alumni Affairs and the Development Foundation, Director of the Family Business Research Center, CKGSB

7. Expanding the Reach of Chinese Innovations in the RCEP Region– Dr. Edward Tse, Chairman, Gao Feng Advisory Group; Adjunct Professor of Managerial Practice, CKGSB 

8. Can RCEP Facilitate an Integrated Digital Economy? – Zhang Kaifu, Head of Taobao Operations, Alibaba Group, Former CKGSB Professor 

Boosting Value Chains, Trade Flows and Investment

RCEP is expected to expand trade in the region by reducing tariffs on goods and creating a higher-quality rules-based system for trade in services. It will also reduce non-tariff barriers, such as on technical standards and customs and quarantine procedures, as well as foster interregional investment. How can RCEP facilitate foreign direct investment and investments into smaller to medium enterprises? What opportunities and challenges will businesses operating in the region face?

9. RCEP- A Key Milestone for Economic Integration in the Most Dynamic Growth Center in the World- Tetsuya Watanabe, Vice-President, Research Institute of Economy, Trade, and Industry; Visiting Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo 

10. What Does RCEP Mean for Indonesia? – Gita Wirjawan, Former Trade Minister, Indonesia

11. Enhancing Trade Exchange Between Indonesia and China – Deny Wachyudi Kurnia, Consul General of Indonesia in Shanghai

12. Opportunities for Australian Agriculture in RCEP – Brett Stevens, Commissioner to Greater China, State Government of Victoria, Australia

13. Building Better Trade Links Between China and The Philippines – Glenn Penaranda, Commercial Counsellor at the Philippine Trade & Investment Center, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in China, CKGSB New Economy Leadership Program Alumnus

14. RCEP- A Chance for Indonesia to Elevate Its Exports – Liky Sutikno, Chairman of the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce in China 

15. Opportunities for Growth in Food Trade between Malaysia and China – Loh Wee Keng, Chairman of Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China 

16. RCEP and China’s Dual Circulation Strategy – Suan Teck Kin, CFA, Head of Research, Executive Director, Global Economics and Markets Research, United Overseas Bank (UOB)

17. RCEP and the Rise of the Nickel-Based Industry – Cyrillus Harinowo, Independent Commissioner of BCA Bank, CKGSB ASEAN Global Leadership Program Alumnus

18. How RCEP Will Shape the Recovery of Asia’s Economy and Service Industries -Saran Song, Co-Founder and CEO of Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co. Ltd, CKGSB ASEAN Global Leadership Program Alumnus

19. RCEP’s Key Provisions for Corporate Asia – Michel D. Yoon, Head of Global Company Research, Fortune Korea

20. The Lubricant for the Giant Wheel: The Role of Business Education Institutions in RCEP – Deddi Tedjakumara, CEO of Prasetiya Mulya Executive Learning Institute

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