KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states will receive a much needed boost in their post-pandemic economic recovery with the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, a Malaysian analyst has said.
In an interview with Xinhua, Oh Ei Sun, principal adviser for Malaysia's Pacific Research Center, said that beyond the economic benefits of the world's largest free trade deal to date, RCEP is a victory for multilateralism and a strong affirmation of China's strong and continuous push for global free trade to be inclusive and balanced.
"China is the major trading partner of a number of Southeast Asian countries and ASEAN as a whole also became China's largest trading partner," Oh said.
"On that very successful basis, why not we extend it to include some other regional major economies right, such as Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and also Australia," explained the Malaysian analyst.
Hopefully, with this extension, RCEP will become the world's largest free trade bloc, and it should then serve as a leading light for the free trade movement in the world, he said.
This would spur post-pandemic economic recovery efforts by participating economies, allowing better integration of supply chains, common standards, and infrastructure through the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and allowing the movement of goods, services and technology between RCEP participants, Oh said.
Oh pointed out that the trade agreement will serve as a demonstration of the success and benefits of multilateralism over narrow, nationalistic approaches to world trade, serving to bring up less developed countries, allowing for an inclusive and balanced sharing of prosperity.
"It doesn't make sense anymore to be nationalistic, and simply confine your production, your marketing to your local national markets. It makes more sense for you to diversify, for example, your production bases to other ASEAN countries or even to countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and so on. And similarly, you must explore markets beyond your own country, or even beyond ASEAN," he said.
"Now with RCEP, you could explore the huge China market, you could explore the Japanese and South Korean markets and you could go down south to Australia and to New Zealand to explore the markets there," he added.
RCEP, which took effect on Jan. 1, is made up of 10 ASEAN members, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, covering about 30 percent of the world's population, as well as its gross domestic product and trade volume.
While Malaysia is a signatory, it has yet to ratify the pact due to delays in its parliamentary proceedings caused by the COVID-19 situation in the country.
RCEP is expected to be ratified when the lower house of Malaysian parliament convenes in February.