KUALA LUMPUR: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement has finally been signed today after going through 31 rounds of negotiations over the past eight years.

The signing of the RCEP, which is the world’s biggest free trade agreement (FTA), represents a significant and imperative milestone in the integration and revitalisation of economies of the 15 parties.

Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the signing of the agreement is testament to the strengthening of the multilateral trading system, while upholding the World Trade Organisation’s development agenda.

“The RCEP will promote, facilitate and protect the investment climate of participating countries within the region.

“This also includes information exchange and promotion of transparency measures to facilitate business and investment within the RCEP area,” Mohamed Azmin told reporters after the signing of RCEP here today.

The RCEP encompasses 15 countries with a combined population of 2.2 billion, or nearly 29.7 per cent of the world’s population, and represents US$24.8 trillion or 28.9 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, based on World Bank’s 2018 data.

The RCEP amalgamates and streamlines the existing Asean+1 FTAs — which includes Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand — into an inclusive and comprehensive agreement.

Among other things, the agreement will enhance inter- and intra-regional trade and investment, strengthen regional value chains, as well as facilitate transparency, information sharing and harmonisation of technical regulations and standards. – Bernama