The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), being touted as the world’s largest free trade agreement, has been ratified by Australia.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, foreign minister Marise Payne and trade, tourism and investment minister Dan Tehan said that Australian businesses would have access to the RCEP from January 1 next year.
The other signatories comprise to the free trade deal include the 10 ASEAN states — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — as well as China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
“RCEP will enter into force 60 days after ratification by at least six Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states and at least three non-ASEAN states,” the ministers said.
“That milestone was reached on 2 November 2021 with ratification by Australia and New Zealand, which will pave the way for RCEP to enter into force on 1 January 2022.”
Payne said the agreement signalled Australia’s commitment to an ASEAN-led regional economic architecture and once ratified, would bring nine of the country’s 15-top trading partners into a single economic architecture.
Last week The Mandarin reported that Australia had agreed to commit a $154 million package to reinforce a comprehensive strategic partnership with the ASEAN bloc. Most of the money will support the 10 nations — which together represent Australia’s second-biggest trading partner — to address health security, terrorism and transnational crime, as well as energy security and economic initiatives and ocean health.
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The foreign minister added that in the Australian government’s view, the RECP did not reflect a change to its ‘grave concerns’ about the civil unrest and clashes with government forces in a now military-controlled Myanmar.
“We call on the Myanmar security forces to cease violence against civilians, engage in dialogue, and release all those arbitrarily detained, including Australian Professor Sean Turnell,” Payne said.
“The government strongly supports ASEAN’s leadership to chart a course out of the crisis in Myanmar. We will continue to work with our ASEAN and other partners to support regional efforts towards a resolution,” she said.
The foreign minister also announced on Wednesday that she would be visiting Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of a campaign to reassure diplomatic partners about Australia’s nuclear submarine program.
This article was first published by The Mandarin.