Ministry: Tariff-reduction obligations will be fulfilled after deal approval

China will complete the necessary domestic approval procedures for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement within six months, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.

“China commenced the process in December to ensure that everything goes well, and at the same time has been steadily preparing for the implementation of the pact,” Gao Feng, a spokesman for the ministry, said during a media briefing on Thursday.

A mega trade deal signed by China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Nov 15 last year, the RCEP creates the world’s biggest free trade bloc, covering 2.27 billion people, or almost 30 percent of the world’s population, with a combined gross domestic product of $26 trillion, or about 30 percent of global GDP in 2019, data from the ministry showed.

The country is getting ready for the future changes in Customs duties, as well as adoption of common rules of origin, or the criteria that determine where a product is made, to ensure the fulfillment of its obligations for tariff reductions when the agreement takes effect, he said.

Various government departments have been sorting out and working on their own obligations determined by the agreement, to make sure that the measures and rules for opening up are fully implemented, said Gao.

China will also strengthen training on the implementation of the RCEP, he said, adding the ministry plans to hold a national online training session on Monday and Tuesday, to systematically introduce articles of the deal on goods, services, investment, rules of origin, Customs facilitation and other areas. The aim is to assist local governments, industry organizations and enterprises to be familiar with RCEP rules, he said.

In response to some people’s argument that China is decoupling from the world, Gao said China does not intend, nor is it possible, to decouple from the world.

“China’s independent development is not in contradiction with the international industrial and supply-chain cooperation,” he said.

“Through continuous opening up to the rest of the world since reform and opening-up, China has made positive contributions to global economic growth and the establishment of globally shared industrial and supply chains, while ensuring its development.

“We oppose the unilateral and protectionist practices of destroying the existing global industrial and supply chains and promoting on purpose so-called decoupling in any name,” said Gao.

As China is accelerating dual-circulation development, the country will continue to open up and work with other countries to better maintain the security, efficiency and stability of the global industrial and supply chains to promote a higher level of globalization and to further the opening-up of the world economy, he said.

He said China is willing to enhance its business environment by providing better services to investors from all countries, including European companies, to achieve common development.

Zhang Jianping, director-general of the Beijing-based China Center for Regional Economic Cooperation, said China has once again demonstrated its willingness and determination for the full implementation of the RCEP, through faster-than-expected domestic approval procedures.

China is a faithful advocate of multilateralism and firmly supports globalization, Zhang said, adding it’s impossible for the nation to decouple from the world, because China is indispensable to global industrial and supply chains and vice versa.

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