Signing of RCEP 'a victory of multilateralism, free trade': Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
Updated 17:41, 15-Nov-2020

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is "a victory of multilateralism and free trade," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday while attending the fourth RCEP Summit via video link.

The agreement passed among 15 participating Asia-Pacific countries marks the launch of the world's biggest free trade bloc. Details include lowering tariffs and more conveniences in trading services.

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15 nations sign RCEP trade pact – world's biggest FTA

"The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade," Li said.

Experts echoed the sentiment. A Malaysian think tank founder told Xinhua that the greater economic integration will help unlock many of the Southeastern Asian countries' huge potential.

"This, in itself, is a good and viable diplomatic outreach that can meet the needs of many developing countries yearning for their own homegrown value chain and supply chain but are mostly constrained by the lack of technology know-how," said Ong Tee Keat, founding chairman of the Center for New Inclusive Asia Studies in Kuala Lumpur.

With the largest participating population in the world, the most diverse membership and the greatest development potential, the free trade bloc will definitely inject new impetus into regional development and prosperity and contribute to global economic recovery and growth, Premier Li said at the summit.

The RCEP currently accounts for about 30 percent of the global population and nearly 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) and global trade.

Li said after eight years of negotiations, the signing of the RCEP has brought light and hope to people amid the current grim international situation, showing that multilateralism and free trade remain the correct direction for the world economy and human progress.

It allows people to choose solidarity and cooperation when facing challenges, instead of resorting to conflict and confrontation, and to choose mutual assistance and support, rather than taking a "beggar-thy-neighbor" approach or a "wait-and-see" attitude, he said, adding that it shows the world that opening-up and cooperation are the only way to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends the fourth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit via video link, November 15, 2020. /