BEIJING (Reuters) – China is encouraging the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and members of the Asia-Pacific trade pact aim for it to take effect from Jan. 1, 2022, Wang Shouwen, China’s vice commerce minister, said on Thursday.
China began gathering support for the pact in 2012, in what was seen as a bid to counter growing U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Backing for RCEP gained momentum in 2017, after then U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the rival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.
In November last year, fifteen Asia-Pacific economies, including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), formed the world’s largest free trade bloc, covering nearly a third of the global population and about 30% of its global gross domestic product.
“China has taken the lead in ratifying the RCEP, underscoring the great importance and full support from the Chinese government for the early implementation of the deal,” Wang told a news conference.
RCEP must be ratified by at least six ASEAN countries and three non-ASEAN countries before it can come into effect.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)