The 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting was held on November 15 in the form of virtual conference. After the meeting, the economic and trade ministers of the 10 ASEAN countries and the 5 countries including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand signed the RCEP agreement respectively; and the 15 RCEP member states leaders witnesed the signing of this major global free trade agreement.
RCEP includes 20 chapters, covering comprehensive market access commitments for goods, services and investment. It is a comprehensive, modern, high-quality, and mutually beneficial free trade agreement. The overall liberalization level of trade in goods has been above 90%; the service trade commitment is significantly higher than the original "10+1" free trade agreement level, the investment adopts the negative list model to make open market commitments, and the regulatory field includes a higher level of trade facilitation, intellectual property, e-commerce, competition policy, government procurement, etc.. RCEP also fully considered the differences in economic scale and development level among members, and set up chapters on SME enterprises and economic and technological cooperation to help developing members, especially the least developed members, for them to fully enjoy the results of RCEP.
With respect of IP rights, RCEP provides a balanced and inclusive program for the protection and promotion of IP rights in the regions. The content covers a wide range of fields such as copyright, trademarks, GIs, patents, industrial designs, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, anti-unfair competition, IP enforcement, cooperation, transparency, and technical assistance. Its overall protection level is higher than that of TRIPs. It’s specified in RCEP that the IP-related content aims to deepen economic integration and cooperation through effective and adequate creation, use, protection and implementation of IPs, so as to reduce distortions and obstacles in trades and investment. Except for the exclusions stipulated in the multilateral agreements administered by TRIPs or WIPO of a member state, each state shall grant the nationals of other states no less favourable treatment than its own nationals in the protection of IP rights.
The RCEP negotiation was initiated by the 10 ASEAN countries in 2012 and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand were invited to join the dialogue for participation. The 3rd RCEP leaders' meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2019 where a joint statement was issued, announcing that the 15 countries except India have concluded all written negotiations and substantial market access negotiations. The signing of RCEP marks the successful start of the world's largest free trade zone and a new milestone in the regional economic integration of East Asia. The total population, economic volume, and total trade volume of the 15 member states of RCEP account for about 30% of the global gross, which means an integrated market formed comprising about one-third of the world’s economies.