Business heads call for RCEP to be signed

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Business heads call for RCEP to be signed

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Korean and Chinese business leaders and politicians gather at a meeting hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in central Seoul on Thursday. Participants included: Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, front row fifth from left, former speaker of the National Assembly Chung Sye-kyun and Zeng Peiyan, chairman at China Center for International Economic Exchanges. [YONHAP]

Business leaders from Korea and China called for the swift signing of a trade pact between major Asian economies, Australia and New Zealand amid growing concerns that the deal might fall through.

Dubbed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the leaders of 15 Asia-Pacific countries including Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 Asean nations agreed on a framework for an agreement last month to boost commerce among members.

The partnership was initially intended to include 16 countries, but India pulled out last month due to fears for the livelihood of its farmers, a surprise move that prompted Japan to reconsider joining.

Korean and Chinese business chiefs and politicians including SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor’s Euisun Chung and Alibaba Group’s Vice President Gao Hongbing expressed their support for the passage of RCEP at a meeting hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a leading business lobbying group.

The participants urged governments to sign RCEP and strengthen cooperation on technology, energy and the environment.

“Economic cooperation between Korea and China plays an integral role, serving as a cornerstone to keep relations strong,” said Chung Sye-kyun, former speaker of the National Assembly and representative of the Korean attendees.

“Free trade has become critical at a time when protectionist sentiment persists,” said an unnamed Chinese participant in a statement.

The business leaders also called for both countries to renew negotiations to reduce tariffs in the service and investment sectors as part of ongoing negotiations over the Korea-China bilateral free trade agreement.

They also called for better protection of intellectual property to reduce technological theft and patent infringement.

Other participants included Yoon Boo-keun, co-vice chairman at Samsung Electronics, Kim Do-jin, head of the Industrial Bank of Korea, Chinese Ambassador to Korea Qiu Guohong and Zeng Peiyan, chairman at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Fifteen heads of state from the RCEP member countries announced on Nov. 4 that they would work to sign a finalized deal next year after reaching an agreement on the 20 chapters of the deal during the RCEP summit in Bangkok.

Taken together, the RCEP member countries account for 29 percent of global trade and 48 percent of the total global population as of last year, said the Trade Ministry, citing International Monetary Fund data.

The advocates of the trade deal say that it will boost commerce among Asian countries with reduced tariffs and standardized customs rules and procedures, while the skeptics are worried about its impact on farmers and redundancy if participating nations already have bilateral trade agreements.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joonang.co.kr]

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