The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, the world's largest trade deal so far, enters into force on Saturday.
The mega free trade agreement has been applauded by the Asia-Pacific region as an important step toward deeper regional integration and a renewed worldwide momentum for free trade and multilateralism at a time of multiple global uncertainties.
Signed in November 2020, the RCEP groups the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, covering roughly 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product and population, and including a mixture of developed and developing countries.
The Jakarta-based ASEAN Secretariat announced in a statement early on Saturday that the RCEP agreement entered into force for Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In addition, the agreement will also enter into force on Feb. 1 for South Korea, according to the ASEAN Secretariat.
According to the agreement, the implementation of the RCEP will begin 60 days after ratification by at least six ASEAN and at least three non-ASEAN countries, which was achieved before Nov. 2, 2021.
The expeditious ratification process by signatory states "is a true reflection of our strong commitment to a fair and open multilateral trading system for the benefit of the people in the region and the world," said ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi.
Lim noted that the RCEP reinforces regional economic integration by expanding common accumulative rules of origin, simplified customs procedures, trade facilitation, and coherent trade rules that provide greater transparency, fairness, and predictability for businesses.
"All these will translate into a significant reduction of trade costs and processing time for ASEAN businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises," he said.
The pact has also been hailed for its critical role to build economic resilience amid COVID-19 and improve peoples' livelihood.
Le Quang Lan, director for market integration of ASEAN Secretariat, said "post-pandemic economic recovery requires more trade and investment, not less. This is where RCEP is expected to contribute."
Once in effect, the RCEP will eliminate tariffs on as much as 90 percent of goods traded between its signatories eventually, expand market access for investment, harmonize rules and regulations, and strengthen the supply chains within the massive free trade zone.
China is well-prepared for implementing the RCEP agreement, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce Gao Feng said on Dec. 23, 2021.
The core of the agreement lies in its implementation, Gao told a press briefing.
An Asian Development Bank study published in October said the RCEP "presents strong potential to mold regional trade and investment patterns well into the future and to influence the direction of global economic cooperation at a challenging time."