CANBERRA • The world's largest free trade deal - the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement - is set to enter into force on Jan 1 following the move by Australia and New Zealand to ratify the pact.
The deal is the world's largest trade pact, representing about 30 per cent of the global population and gross domestic product. Its signatories are the 10 Asean members, as well as Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong wrote on his LinkedIn account yesterday: "This is good news for Singapore businesses, who will be able to utilise the agreement for trade with the above countries, and enjoy greater cost and time savings, transparency and certainty.
"Apart from additional preferential access in some markets, businesses will also benefit from streamlined rules of origin, enjoy simplified Customs procedures, enhanced trade facilitation measures, and enhanced investment rules and disciplines.
"This major milestone signals our shared commitment to greater regional economic integration and shared interest in free and open trade and investment. I look forward to the expeditious entry into force of the RCEP for the remaining signatory states."
Announcing Australia's ratification of the agreement, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan observed in a statement that the RCEP was intended to enter into force 60 days after ratification by at least six Asean states and at least three non-Asean countries.
"That milestone was reached on Nov 2, 2021, with ratification by Australia and New Zealand, which will pave the way for RCEP to enter into force on Jan 1, 2022," the statement said.
Besides Australia and New Zealand, eight other countries - Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - have ratified the agreement.
Japan welcomed the entry into force of the agreement, asserting that it "will contribute to the economic growth of Japan and the region by further strengthening the link between Japan and the region as a growth centre of the world".
The RCEP is designed to remove tariffs on as much as 90 per cent of goods traded between member countries, and standardise rules on investment and e-commerce. Representatives of the 15 countries party to the RCEP signed the deal in November last year.
The signing came after more than 30 rounds of negotiation conducted since November 2012, as well as a number of specific leader and ministerial meetings between the participating countries.