Conclude RCEP to form largest free trade area in the world, thai PM Prayuth

23 Jun 2019 / 17:05 H.

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan o-cha has called on Asean to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by this year to form the world’s largest free trade area.

Speaking during the opening of 34th Asean Summit here today, the Asean chairman urged all member countries to reaffirm their determination to finalise the negotiation on the trade agreement.

“The winds of protectionism that are battering the multilateral system remind us that we must hang on ever stronger to one another.

“RCEP will be the largest free trade area in the world, and it can cushion any impacts from the ongoing trade conflict between some Asean’s key trading partners,” he said.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between 10 Asean member countries and six Asia Pacific nations, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The free trade agreement was officially launched at the 2012 Asean Summit in Cambodia.

RCEP has a combined population of 3.4 billion with the gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$49.5 trillion (RM204.8 trillion) or 39% of the global GDP.

Meanwhile, the recently elected Thai Prime Minister also urged members of the regional grouping to create an Asean digital economy, which is expected to add another US$100 billion (RM413.7 billion) to Asean’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

“The digital economy will be able to take advantage of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) technology and innovation as well as creating new economic opportunities for our Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) skilled labour, entrepreneurs and professionals, and the agricultural sector.

“It is important that we work to increase the value added throughout the agricultural supply chain, so as to reduce disparities and narrow the development gap.

“We should also make use of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the ‘connecting the connectivities’ approach in the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) sub-region and the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions,” he said. — Bernama

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