Australia signs world’s largest free trade agreement

Austrade

Australia has signed up to the landmark Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement. The move was announced on November 15 in a joint statement by the Hon Scott Morrison, Prime Minister, and the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. The agreement took eight years to negotiate.

RCEP is a regional free trade agreement (FTA) that will build on Australia’s existing FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region. Australian participation will improve export access and supply chain opportunities for Australian businesses in 14 Indo-Pacific countries.

The agreement should also benefit Australian farmers and deliver greater investment certainty for businesses. It is designed to boost trade in services, especially in education, health, engineering, finance and professional services.

Better access to 30% of the global economy

With major regional economies already signed up to RCEP – including Japan and China – the agreement covers countries that produce approximately 30 per cent of global GDP.

Participating countries include members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. RECEP also includes China, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

RCEP benefits for Australian businesses

When it comes into force – likely in 2021 – the RCEP agreement will deliver multiple benefits for Australian exporters. These include:

  • a new single set of rules and procedures for accessing preferential tariffs
  • liberalised trade in services
  • improved mechanisms for tackling non-tariff barriers in customs procedures, quarantine and technical standards
  • new rules on e-commerce to make it easier for businesses to trade online
  • a common set of rules on intellectual property
  • agreed rules of origin to help suppliers contribute to regional production chains.

Australia will work towards ratification of the RCEP Agreement in 2021.

Read the joint media release: Regional trade deal to boost export opportunities for Aussie farmers and businesses

To find practical advice and resources on how to access RCEP benefits, sign up to our eLearning platform Free Trade Advantage.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has more information on RCEP, including a benefits fact sheet.

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