Related information

Australia called on to push back against protectionism with RCEP trade deal

From left, Shiro Armstrong, Craig Emerson and Mari Pangestu called for Australia to get behind the RCEP trade deal. 

Australia is being urged to get behind a renewed push for the signing of a regional trade pact with south-east Asia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, in a bid to reverse the trend of rising protectionism.

The latest round of ministerial negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership kick off in Tokyo on Sunday, at a time when the United States, China and Europe are locked in an escalating tariff dispute.

Former Australian and Indonesian trade ministers, Craig Emerson and Mari Pangestu, said signing RCEP would be a positive signal for the global trading system, which was under threat.

"There's a big push in anticipation of the July meeting," said Ms Pangestu, at the ANU Crawford Leadership forum on Tuesday.

"The level of ambition from Australia, Japan and New Zealand has to come down and India has to move up," she said.

"We have to find this landing zone, which is not the perfect one, but it's a living agreement. We can ratchet it up moving forward."

Dr Emerson told the forum it was important to "get a reasonable foundation and make a living, breathing document and build on that foundation over time".

Shiro Armstrong, director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, said Sunday's meeting was the first RCEP ministerial gathering to be hosted outside the Association of South-East Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries and was further confirmation of the shift in Tokyo's position.

Japan, along with Australia, spearheaded a push for the remaining 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to go ahead with that multi-lateral deal despite the Trump administration's decision to withdraw the US. 

"[RCEP] is not something where China can lead alone," said Mr Armstrong. "It's going to require Japan, Australia and Indonesia to drag India kicking and screaming along. It may not be perfect, but it's a framework. It's where the dynamism is in the global economy."

China has been one of the driving forces behind the RCEP deal. When negotiations were formally launched almost six years ago, it was widely viewed as Beijing's response to the then-US led TPP. However, while RCEP includes the biggest economies in the region – Japan, India and China – it has been more difficult to find consensus on issues such as environmental standards and labour rights, which are covered in the TPP11 agreement.

Still, Ms Pangestu points out RCEP covers half the world's population and almost a third of global gross domestic product and trade so that even if it is a less ambitious agreement, it can be a meaningful starting point.

Dr Emerson said "China would find it irresistible to be identified as the leading force for trade liberalisation".

Former head of the department of foreign affairs and trade (DFAT) Peter Varghese also told the forum Australia should finalise negotiations on RCEP and build up the East Asia Summit to build stronger regional engagement in recognition of the "fading strategic predominance" of the US in Asia.

He said Australia should also strengthen "in careful increments" the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – a grouping of Australia, the US, India and Japan. The controversial grouping, which recently held its second meeting of officials since being revived last year, is viewed in Beijing as part of a strategy to contain China's rise.

Source: Financial Review

Các bài khác