By Gurdip Singh
Singapore, Apr 9 (PTI) Singapore ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement on Friday, becoming the first participating country to do so in a multi-nation trade pact that brings together the 10 ASEAN economies as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
The RCEP, an initiative led by China, is the world's largest free trade agreement but India had opted out of it though it had been widely expected to be an important market with a large consumer base and export potential, observers said.
"Singapore's expeditious ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement signals Singapore's strong commitment to strengthening our trade and economic linkages with our partners, for the benefit of our businesses and people," Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said.
"We look forward to our fellow RCEP Participating Countries doing likewise, to expedite the entry into force of the agreement," the minister said.
Singapore has deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of ASEAN, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
The RCEP was signed by the 15 participating countries in November last year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had then said: "The RCEP is a major step forward for the world, at a time when multilateralism is losing ground and global growth is slowing."
The RCEP deal establishes a mutually beneficial economic partnership that builds on existing ASEAN agreements with the bloc's five FTA partners, said MTI on Friday.
Comprising about 30 per cent of global gross domestic product and close to a third of the world's population, the deal will complement Singapore's existing network of FTAs and boost trade and investment flows, the ministry said.
These FTAs include India's Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore and the ASEAN-India FTA.
Businesses can expect to benefit from tariff elimination of about 92 per cent on average, as well as streamlined rules of origin for greater flexibility to tap on preferential market access benefits.
The RCEP agreement will enter into force after six ASEAN member states and three ASEAN FTA partners have ratified it, according to a Channel News Asia report on Friday.
The participating countries are targeting entry into force on January 1, 2022, said MTI.
On November 4 last year, India walked out of the mega free trade agreement RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) as negotiations failed to address New Delhi's outstanding issues and concerns.
The remaining 15 member countries have signed the RCEP agreement and have stated that the pact would remain open to India. PTI GS RS RS