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|Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany Peter Altmaier (Photo: AFP)|
Berlin – Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany Peter Altmaier has welcomed the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement between 15 signatories in Asia-Pacific.
The trade agreement is an important contribution to free and rules-based world trade, he said on November 16, adding that the EU has already concluded its own free trade pacts with Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK), Singapore and Vietnam and is working hard to conclude an investment agreement with China.
Meanwhile, foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Jürgen Hardt, called on the European Union (EU) to push ahead with its own agreement.
The RCEP agreement is a wake-up call for the EU, he added.
In a statement, Hardt underlined that the conclusion of the RCEP agreement in Asia creates another trade power centre without Europe and the US.
The EU can no longer afford to put free trade negotiations on the back burner, because other nations will set the standards and Europeans will fall behind, he said.
German media also highlighted the signing of the trade agreement, saying it will bolster economic integration in Asia-Pacific and stand up to trade protectionism.
An article of Neues Deutschland newspaper commented that the century of Asia has come following the signing of the RCEP agreement.
Asia’s intra-regional trade is projected to lure the global economy’s core to the continent, it continued.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper quoted Dr Jeffrey Wilson, a Research Director at the Perth USAsia Centre in Australia, as saying that the RCEP agreement will be the most important regional trade agreement ever signed since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation in 1994 and projected to change the region’s economic and strategic maps.
The RCEP agreement sets an example for countries to overcome political differences and reduce trade barriers in pursuit of developmental benefits, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, said.
The US expert said what makes RCEP especially noteworthy is that even though member states have extraneous political differences, they all view anticipated economic gain of multilateralism as sufficiently motivating to overcome such differences. All should root for RCEP's success, he noted.
The trade pact was formally signed on November 15 within the framework of the recent 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits hosted by Vietnam, after eight years of negotiation.
The RCEP agreement is the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in the world, covering a market of 2.2 billion people, or almost 30 percent of the world's population, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 26.2 trillion US dollars or about 30 percent of global GDP.
It includes 10 ASEAN members, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and the bloc's five FTA partners of China, Japan, the RoK, Australia and New Zealand.