PHNOM PENH, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which took effect last year, has given an extra boost to trade exchanges in the region, a Cambodian senior official and experts said on Saturday.
The RCEP comprises 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and their trading partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Sok Siphana, a senior minister in charge of special mission, said the world's largest free trade agreement is an important instrument of development for its members, and it has provided a big opportunity for Cambodia to boost its exports.
"The RCEP has given an extra boost to trade, shaping the economic development of the member countries," he said during a live podcast under the theme of "Different Legal Dimensions of the RCEP."
According to the World Bank, the RCEP covers 2.3 billion people, 25.8 trillion U.S. dollars of global gross domestic product, 12.7 trillion dollars of global trade in goods and services, and 31 percent of global foreign direct investment inflows.
Siphana said ASEAN, where some 80-90 percent of the companies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), will greatly benefit from this mega free trade agreement, which will eliminate 90 percent of the tariffs on goods traded among its signatories over the next 20 years.
The RCEP is comprehensive, covering trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, dispute settlement, e-commerce, competition, and intellectual property, among others.
He said it's essential for the governments to promote RCEP's potential for companies in their respective countries to reap the maximum benefit from the mega free trade deal.
He added that the trade pact will also importantly contribute to reducing poverty in Cambodia and other fellow member countries.
Cambodia exported 5.26 billion U.S. dollars worth of products to fellow RCEP countries in the first eight months of 2023, up 22 percent from 4.3 billion dollars over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, a think-tank under the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the RCEP has promoted multilateralism and free trade system against the backdrop of protectionism and unilateralism.
"It has helped stabilize the member countries' economies, especially during this time of global economic slowdown," he told Xinhua.
Phea said all RCEP member countries, particularly ASEAN countries, have gradually reaped benefits from this trade pact by integrating further into regional and global supply chains.
"The RCEP will help transform ASEAN into a new engine of growth in Asia," he said.
Thong Mengdavid, a research supervisor at the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said the RCEP has provided tremendous benefits and opportunities for ASEAN members to diversify their economies and to create new jobs for their peoples.
"This regional mega-trade pact has become a catalyst for regional trade and greater economic integration, injecting strong impetus into building a community with a shared future for mankind," he told Xinhua. ■