KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Asean and its partners of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should push for the signing of the agreement to combat the threat of Covid-19 pandemic on the regional economy.
MCA international communication and diplomacy bureau chairperson Dr Tee Ching Seng said while Asean must maintain a common front for the post-pandemic era, there is no better time than now for it to push for the signing of the RCEP as the agreement would bolster strong regional economic ties and support integration of regional sectors.
"Since the 1997 Asian financial crisis to the 2008 global economic recession, cooperative efforts from regional partners have been the guiding light.
"Hence, there is no better time than now for Asean to push for the signing of the RCEP agreement," he said in a statement Monday (Aug 24).
He added that if the RCEP can be endorsed by Asean partners by the end of 2020, it shall be "a strong booster to the region" which has suffered from the significant slowdown in trade due to the preventative measures taken to contain the virus.
"This is because the RCEP will cement the pact for the largest regional partnership worldwide, spurring the birth of the biggest free-trade zone globally, which will surely provide the much-needed catalyst for the Asean region to thrive in the post-pandemic era," said Tee.
The text-based negotiations of the RCEP, which is set to be the largest regional free trade agreement covering almost half of the world's population and contributing one-third of the global Gross Domestic Product, was concluded at the 35th Asean Summit in Bangkok in November last year.
Besides the 10-member Asean countries, other participating countries are Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. India withdrew from the trade agreement following concerns that the deal might hurt its domestic industry.
In early August, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said RCEP-participating countries are expected to sign the agreement in November (2020). – Bernama