Conclusion

With details of RCEP agreement still unclear it is difficult to evaluate the benefits it is likely to bring. Given the sheer size of the trade flows between its members even rudimentary tariff elimination would increase efficiency considerably. However if RCEP ends up too similar to the ASEAN+ bilateral agreements between its members then lists of reservations and “sensitive goods” may undermine these gains.

If RCEP is to fulfil its potential in paving the way toward an FTAAP, it will need to achieve considerably deeper levels of integration than tariff elimination. The level of services market access granted in the various ASEAN+ agreements provides reasons for scepticism that RCEP will really be able to achieve this greater goal.

A useful discussion of what RCEP really needs to achieve to be considered a paradigm shift in Asian regionalism, and of why it is unlikely to get there, is provided by the East Asia Forum here.7 The Asian Trade Center has developed a number of Policy Briefs on RCEP that can also be found here.8 There is also an interesting opinion piece by the Asian Development Bank on both the TPP and RCEP.9

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