The Ministry of Commerce of China announced that Premier Li Keqiang would attend the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit meeting that takes place during this year’s East Asia Summit scheduled for November 12 to 16.
The upcoming RCEP summit meeting is the first summit meeting in the RCEP, which is an economic partnership led by China. RCEP member countries started their negotiations for the formation of the partnership five years ago. They are planning to set up some future negotiation guidelines at the meeting so that their agreement can be concluded as soon as possible.
RCEP member countries consist of the 10 member countries of the ASEAN, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India. They have had 20 rounds of official negotiations and eight ministerial meetings since 2012. Once the RCEP agreement becomes effective, a regional economic bloc that covers a population of three billion and accounts for one-third of the global total GDP is created.
China is trying to have the agreement signed early. These days, the Chinese government is promoting the RCEP as a way of protecting free trade with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) led by the United States having come to a halt and the RCEP being the only large-scale multilateral FTA in sight. During his recent visit to Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump said that the TPP is not a good idea.
The 16 RCEP member countries are having a hard time reaching an agreement though. According to the Financial Times, they are unlikely to reach a substantial agreement during the summit meeting. At present, they have yet to deal with their different opinions on the levels of tariff concession and market opening.