RCEP key mechanism to safeguard free trade: Cambodian PM

Staff members unload cargos from a plane at the Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 31, 2021. Photo by Van Pov/Xinhua

PHNOM PENH -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is an important mechanism to safeguard the rules-based multilateral free trade system against the trends of anti-globalization and protectionism, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday.

Addressing a high-level forum on the RCEP here, Hun Sen said the rise in protectionism is undermining globalization and rules-based multilateralism momentum.

"In this context, the RCEP is an important mechanism and a strategy that demonstrates our unwavering commitment to safeguard the rules-based multilateral free trade system, maintain economic openness, and uphold a spirit of cooperation," he said.

"Furthermore, the RCEP has great potential to address major challenges such as strengthening global value chains, accelerating digitalization, mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change as well as counteracting the tendencies of anti-globalization and protectionism," he added.

Hun Sen said that the RCEP also has a crucial role in maintaining prosperity and political stability in the region by promoting economic integration and enhancing existing institutional mechanisms.

Entering into force on Jan. 1, 2022, the RCEP comprises 15 countries, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said the RCEP is the biggest free trade agreement in the world.

As a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement, the RCEP is crucial for post-pandemic economic recovery amid uncertainties of global trade, he said at the event.

Senior economist Ky Sereyvath, director-general of the Institute of China Studies at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that through the RCEP, Cambodia could be a hub-and-spoke model of distributing goods from China in southeast Asia.

"This regional mega-trade pact has served as a catalyst for regional and global economic growth and undoubtedly, all participating countries will benefit from it at different levels," he told Xinhua. "It will help Cambodia and other member countries quicken their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said that the RCEP has been giving a big boost to economic recovery of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the post-pandemic era, and has also played a crucial role in helping narrow the development gap between rich and poor ASEAN countries.

"This mega-trade pact holds huge potential for all participating countries to boost their trade and investment ties," he told Xinhua. "All member countries have reaped and will continue to reap the benefits of the RCEP for the long term."

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