Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of NZIBF, traveled to San Francisco for APEC Leaders’ week and writes his thoughts on the outcome.

read more

And now for something completely different (?) – enter RCEP

by | Jul 30, 2018 | Trade Working Blog


Some people may not have heard about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) but after years of effort it is making slow but steady progress towards conclusion hopefully next year.

The 23rd round of negotiations on the RCEP took place last week in Bangkok, Thailand. The parties to this proposed trade agreement are the ten-member states of ASEAN plus Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and South Korea. This group makes up 39% of global GDP and covers nearly half the world’s population so it is literally a big deal, but much depends on the quality of the outcome.

RCEP has been a long time coming but RCEP negotiations have intensified this year and progress is being made. Some chapters of the final agreement have been finalised, pending the conclusion of the whole agreement, including, just last week, on Customs and Trade Facilitation. Other areas of the negotiations are proving trickier. The RCEP participants are engaged in bilateral negotiations on market access for goods and services, involving the exchange of requests and offers. It is too soon to say to whether the deal will meet the needs of New Zealand business such as tariff elimination on all key goods items of export interest, based both on tariff lines and value of trade.

The negotiators are fully aware that the RCEP business community expects a final deal which is commercially meaningful and delivers on the standards set out in RCEP’s Guiding Principles for a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership, that fosters and supports regional economic integration. Whether all RCEP parties share the same view of what constitutes “commercially meaningful access” remains to be seen.

That is one reason why it is hard to see the deal being concluded this year. It is more likely that the talks will be “substantially concluded” by late 2018 and for the final deal to be wrapped up around mid-2019. Negotiators are seeking to make as much progress as possible prior to another RCEP Ministerial meeting in late August 2018 at which they will seek fresh instructions.

Given the economic diversity of the RCEP members, it is unlikely that the RCEP will be as ambitious as the Comprehensive Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). However, given that the RCEP membership constitutes a significant share of global trade, the further liberalisation of trade and investment within RCEP would be a significant economic boost to the region. RCEP gives New Zealand an opportunity to improve on existing trade agreements with RCEP members and to deliver better trade conditions with India.

When considered against the backdrop of rising global trade tensions, the conclusion of the RCEP will be a welcome achievement.

This post was prepared by Fiona Cooper, Associate Director, NZIBF, who attended the Bangkok meeting in her capacity as Vice-Chair of the East Asia Business Council’s RCEP Working Group.


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.




Latest News


While New Zealand was sorting out its new Government, the alphabet soup which is trade got a good stirring in San Francisco.  This was APEC Leaders’ week, the annual gathering of Leaders, Ministers, business people and other stakeholders from the 21 economies of...


Published by Newsroom on 6 September 2023 Stephen Jacobi reports on the recent business delegation to India. Every country has its contrasts and a subcontinent of 1.4 billion with thousands of years of history has more than most.  Today’s India can reach the...

Large business delegation bound for India

MEDIA RELEASE - Tuesday 22 August, 2023 Fifty business representatives will leave later this week bound for Delhi, making it one of the largest delegations ever to head for India. The delegation, comprising members and senior leaders of five business organisations,...

India and New Zealand: The next innings

As published in the NZ Herald, 18 August 2023 By Stephen Jacobi As a trade mission prepares to depart for Delhi, Stephen Jacobi of the New Zealand International Business Forum considers the prospects for growing two-way trade and investment between India and New...


As published in the NZ Herald, 18 August 2023. By Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director, NZ International Business Forum. Following the Ministers’ meeting in Auckland, what is the outlook for CPTPP as the world’s most ambitious free trade agreement? When Ministers...


The Australia-New Zealand Leadership, the semi-annual gathering of Ministers and business leaders, has been described as a “successful symbol of trans-Tasman togetherness[1]”.  And the togetherness vibe was certainly present when the Forum gathered in Wellington...