Regional trade agreements such as RCEP which include some of the major global palm oil producers including Malaysia and Indonesia could have been drafted to help sustainable palm oil production in both countries by eliminating markets for unsustainable palm oil. Despite all of the fanfare around RCEP, the RCEP treaty is a lost opportunity for using trade to advance human rights and environmental protection.
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
To grasp an idea of the impacts of the RCEP for international economic law governance, this blog post looks at why the RCEP has been pursued, how it contrasts with the CPTPP, how it reshapes existing and future trade relations and lastly if and how it relates to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The RCEP can be seen as a crucial step within the longer process of integrating the Asia-Pacific region and of its increased geopolitical centrality. This process started with the idea of the “Asia-Pacific” and then, with the establishment of ASEAN in 1967, and later ASEAN+3 in 1997 that improved dramatically the relationship between nations in Southeast Asia and in the Asia-Pacific, allowing to avoid major conflicts. However, there remains a deficit of trust among Asia-Pacific members—complicated by China’s rise and a lack of an Asian identity—necessary to respect commitments on trade, investments, and intellectual property. While we are witnessing a pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, the Atlantic bloc and “the West” more broadly are far from disappearing.
More significant than trade liberalisation is the RCEP’s geopolitical statement. Initial commentary from the West has mostly misread the signal, with narratives that the RCEP is a huge economic and political win for China, that the RCEP was a China-led initiative to counter the TPP, and that the agreement provides further evidence of a rising China and a global geopolitical shift – all of which misrepresent the reality of the agreement and overstate reality.
The contributions to the symposium on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) feature essays from across the world. The topics are diverse too: some dwell on the geopolitical implications of the RCEP, some dwell on its dispute settlement chapter, while some others on issues which the text of the Agreement either ignores or deals with only perfunctorily. Despite the divergence of the views of the contributors, on some points, they broadly tend to agree. They clearly perceive the RCEP as the beginning of a growing trend where economies in the Asia-Pacific region could play a much more pivotal rule in global trade rulemaking.
Given the central relevance of TK to African countries, it is necessary to design effective mechanisms for its protection. One key rising trend in TK lawmaking is its incorporation in bilateral and free trade agreements.