RCEP is more than just a multilateral trade deal: diplomats
They said the RCEP will not only strengthen alliances and cooperation within the region but also help safeguard against a number of risks, including trade retaliation.
The RCEP was made effective in a number of the 15 member states at the beginning of the year. Korea joined Feb. 1.
On Tuesday, the Korea JoongAng Daily held its first Korea-Asean RCEP Forum at the Westin Josun in Seoul. There, the nature of the RCEP and its role were discussed by Asean diplomats and Korean businesspeople and officials.
The inaugural forum was held as globalization comes to an end and trade becomes fragmented and as mega-FTAs emerge as the key countermeasure to rising protectionism and resource nationalism.
"This is because the economic structures of Korea and Asean are mutually complementary," Park added. "The ratification of RCEP will help Korea to be closer and advance further."
The National Assembly speaker noted a changing global order that is affecting politics, economy and even the military, especially as the world faces the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and power struggles between powerful countries.
"As we set our sights on rebuilding our economies from the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must ensure that our commitment towards regional economic integration and an open, inclusive and rule-based multilateral trading system forms the basis of our resilient and sustainable post-pandemic recovery," said Pg Hjh Nooriyah Plw Pg Hj Yussof, Brunei Darussalam ambassador, during her opening speech. Brunei is the chair of Asean in Korea.
"Frameworks such as RCEP demonstrate such resolve by promoting trade through strengthening regional supply chains and liberalization for trade in goods and services and investment."
Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy Deputy Minister for trade negotiations Chun Yoon-jong stressed the importance of RCEP and the relationship between Korea and Asean, especially at a time when the world is going through one of the biggest changes in decades.
"The world today is completely different from when RCEP negotiations for the free trade of goods and services started," Chun said during his keynote speech on RCEP.
The trade ministry's top official on FTAs stressed the potential of the Asean market, noting how the association's economy grew faster than the world overall during the pandemic.
According to the ministry, Asean exports grew 31.5 percent, while imports were up 31 percent in 2021. During the same period, world exports grew 28.5 percent and imports 28.9 percent.
Trade between Korea and Asean has more than doubled since 2009, from $75 billion when the Korea-Asean FTA was completed to $176 billion in 2021.
"As it has been shown, Korea and Asean are forming a win-win relationship economically," Chun said.
"I think the strength of RCEP is that there are very strong components on trade facilitation. And it also takes into account the existing ecosystem of bilateral free trade agreements," said Maria Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega, Philippine ambassador to Seoul. "I think that is the strength of RCEP, addressing any possible occurrences down the line of trade retaliation."
In addition to Asean ambassadors and other diplomats, some 100 people from leading Korean and foreign companies attended the forum.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [email@example.com]