<Auatralia Breaknews=Mi-Young Jo Economist, Sydney>
▲ Australia and 15 other countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on Saturday. ©aubreaknews
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest free trade agreement, including Australia, has paid off.
The leaders of 10 ASEAN countries, including South Korea and Australia, and 15 other countries including China, Japan and New Zealand signed the agreement through a video conference.
"The signing of the RCEP agreement has created the world's largest FTA," President Moon said in his speech at the summit. "It is very meaningful to launch a large economic community despite the global crisis caused by the Corona, raising alarm over protectionism and informing the world of the importance of free trade."
"Through RCEP, let's lower trade barriers and harmonize norms to promote mutual exchanges and cooperation, and overcome the Korona crisis together," he said. "Let's respect the diversity of each other and find a way to coexist, and develop together into social and cultural cooperation beyond trade and investment."
Major leaders at the meeting also welcomed the progress of RCEP signatures under the Korona situation, exchanging views on the role of RCEP in restoring the region's economy as a modern, comprehensive and high-level mutually beneficial agreement.
In a joint statement of the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit held on the same day, members welcomed the signing of the RCEP agreement despite the unprecedented crisis in Korona, saying, "We have confirmed that it has great significance not only in overcoming the Korona crisis, such as creating jobs in the region, but also in establishing an open, comprehensive and norm-based trade and investment system."
In addition, the company said it expects to create new opportunities for participating countries by enhancing the overall level of norms such as intellectual property rights, e-commerce, and small and medium-sized enterprises, along with further market opening in goods, services, and investment.
The leaders also reached a consensus that countries should push for domestic procedures as soon as possible so that the RCEP can take effect early.
The trade volume, population and gross domestic product of RCEP participants account for 30 percent of the world.
The so-called "mega FTA" has been launched, and the basic purpose is to reduce the tariff threshold among the members of the agreement and establish a systematic trade and investment system to promote trade.
Major expected benefits include lowering tariffs on major exports and protecting intellectual property rights of Korean companies based on a single origin.
For example, companies that export auto parts to Indonesia are currently subject to tariffs of up to 40 percent, but tariffs could be reduced to zero percent after the RCEP takes effect, Cheong Wa Dae explained.
In addition, Korean companies, which want to produce washing machines and export them to China, Australia and ASEAN, had to prepare documents of origin according to their respective FTA standards, but once the RCEP goes into effect, the same standards will be applied, increasing corporate convenience.
Cheong Wa Dae said, "Through the RCEP agreement, we are expected to expand trade and investment in the region, strengthen economic cooperation, and upgrade our industry to provide an opportunity to overcome the Korona crisis and recover the economy."
He added, "As the RCEP includes all 10 ASEAN countries, it is expected that the New Southern Policy, which our government has consistently pursued, such as promoting economic, social and cultural exchanges with ASEAN, will further accelerate and bear various fruits."
The signed RCEP negotiations have held 31 formal negotiations, 19 ministerial meetings and four summit meetings over the past eight years since the start of the negotiations in November 2012.
This year, despite the situation in Corona, they held more than 10 video conferences to agree on the final signature.
In particular, the signing of the RCEP marks the first time in Korea's history that the FTA has been signed through a video conference, which is expected to be significant in the future FTA promotion under the Korona situation.