Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations

RCEP market snapshot (including Australia)

  • GDP: US$21.3 trillion (2013)
  • GDP per capita: US$6,191 (2013)
  • Population: 3,435 million (2013)
  • Trade with Australia: AU$360.2 billion (2013)

About the RCEP negotiations

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations were launched by Leaders from ASEAN and ASEAN’s FTA partners in the margins of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 20 November 2012. The negotiations are based on the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP [PDF] endorsed by Leaders.

RCEP is an ASEAN-centred proposal for a regional free trade area, which would initially include the ten ASEAN member states and those countries which have existing FTAs with ASEAN – Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand. The RCEP will build on and expand Australia’s existing FTA with ASEAN and New Zealand, AANZFTA. It will complement Australia’s participation in bilateral trade negotiations and in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations.

RCEP has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for Australian businesses. The 16 RCEP participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population, almost 30 per cent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.

The objective of launching RCEP negotiations is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement that will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues.

RCEP forms part of the Government’s strategy for lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for Australian exporters of goods and services and Australian investors.

Key interests and benefits

  • RCEP participating countries are important economic partners and regional neighbours for Australia.
  • Nine out of Australia’s top 12 trading partners (China, Japan, ROK, Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, India and Indonesia) are participating in RCEP negotiations, and together with the other six participating countries, account for almost 60 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade, and 70 per cent of Australia’s goods and services exports.
  • RCEP will provide a basis for more open trade and investment in the region. This will help address concerns about a ‘noodle bowl’ of overlapping bilateral agreements and derive additional benefits (eg. through supply chains) from regional liberalisation.
  • Australia and a number of other countries are engaged both in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and RCEP negotiations – both processes provide possible pathways to a free trade area of the Asia–Pacific.
Map showing RCEP countries

News

Fifth round of negotiations – 21-27 June, Singapore

Singapore hosted the fifth round of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which involved meetings of twelve negotiating groups. As it was the last round before the RCEP Ministerial meeting in August, negotiators focused on key issues for RCEP Ministers' consideration and guidance, including on the scope of the RCEP agreement and the level of ambition for negotiations on tariffs, services and investment.

New negotiating groups on legal and institutional issues, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, and standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures met for the first time. Negotiations on goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, rules of origin and customs procedures and trade facilitation continued to intensify as officials sought to narrow differences ahead of the RCEP Ministerial meeting.

India will host the sixth RCEP round, scheduled for 1-5 December 2014 in New Delhi.

Fourth round of negotiations – 31 March - 4 April, Nanning, China

China hosted the fourth round of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – a round characterised by deepening discussions across negotiating groups and a sharpened focus on RCEP's scope and levels of ambition for market access.

The 16 participating countries engaged in detailed negotiations on goods, services and investment issues. They also continued substantive work on intellectual property, competition, economic and technical cooperation and the approach to scheduling services and investment commitments. Participating countries hold a diversity of views and there is a broad range of interests and varying levels of ambition across the negotiating agenda.

Discussions were held in eleven negotiating groups with almost 500 delegates in attendance. Reflecting the broadening agenda, it was agreed that three new negotiating groups on legal and institutional issues, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, and standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures would meet at the next round.

Singapore will host the next negotiating round, 21-27 June 2014, where negotiations are expected to intensify ahead of the RCEP Ministerial meeting in August. Australia expects that there would be a focus on narrowing the number of issues for the Ministers to address. Negotiators would be looking to the Ministerial meeting to provide guidance for following rounds, with the end of 2015 slated for the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations.

RCEP Negotiations – Heading to Nanning, China

The fourth round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations will be held in Nanning, China next week (31 March – 4 April).

The major focus of the meeting will be on goods, services and investment issues and will look to maintain momentum ahead of the RCEP Ministerial meeting in August.

This round also marks the first meetings of working groups on competition, economic and technical cooperation, and intellectual property.

In 2012, the 16 RCEP participating countries accounted for almost half of the world's population, 29 per cent of global GDP in US dollars and in 2012 – 13, 58 per cent of Australia's total two-way trade and 70 per cent of our exports.

Third round of negotiations – 20-24 January, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia hosted the third round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations on 20–24 January 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.

Accounting for 58 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade in 2012-13, the 16 RCEP participating countries made progress in Kuala Lumpur on core goods, services and investment issues.  A number of threshold issues, such as the level of ambition for market access liberalisation, have yet to be resolved.

In line with the agreed Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP [PDF], participating countries agreed at the third round to establish four new working groups on economic and technical cooperation, competition, intellectual property and dispute settlement. 

Participating countries are working towards concluding negotiations by the end of 2015.

China will host the fourth round of negotiations in Nanning on 31 March to 4 April 2014.

Second round of negotiations – 23-27 September, Brisbane

Australia hosted the second round of RCEP negotiations on 23-27 September 2013 in Brisbane.

The 16 RCEP participating countries continued their detailed and technical work on trade in goods, trade in services and investment, with a focus on the key elements and structure of the RCEP agreement in these three areas.  The meeting agreed to establish two new sub-Working Groups on rules of origin (ROO) and customs procedures and trade facilitation (CPTF) to commence work at the third round.

Discussions also took place on competition policy, intellectual property, economic and technical cooperation, dispute settlement and other issues in line with the agreed RCEP Guiding Principles.

Australia hosted a competition seminar in the margins of the round with high calibre speakers drawn from different participating countries – Mr Rod Sims, Chairman, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission; Ms Susan Ning, Senior Partner, King & Wood Mallesons, Beijing; Mr Shozo Furumoto, General Manager (Legal), Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation – who offered regulator, legal and business perspectives on the role of competition provisions in trade agreements.

Malaysia will host the third round of negotiations on 20-24 January 2014.

Media release: Australia hosts second round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Negotiations in Brisbane

Media release: Competition provisions in trade agreements benefit region

First Ministerial Meeting – 19 August 2013, Brunei Darussalam

Economic and Trade Ministers attended the first Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministerial Meeting on 19 August 2013 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Ministers welcomed early progress in the negotiations and encouraged officials to build on the momentum already achieved ahead of the second round to be held in Brisbane, Australia on 23-27 September 2013.

Joint media statement, First RCEP Ministerial Meeting, 19 August 2013

First round of negotiations — 9–13 May 2013, Brunei Darussalam

The first round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, involving the ten ASEAN Member States and its six Free Trade Agreement Partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand), was held on 9–13 May 2013 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Negotiations were constructive and good progress was made towards the target of concluding negotiations by the end of 2015.

The round focused on developing a clear framework for negotiations on goods, services and investment in line with the agreed Guiding Principles [PDF]. The meeting established a Working Group on Trade in Goods, a Working Group on Trade in Services and a Working Group on Investment. Delegates also held an initial exchange of views on other issues listed in the Guiding Principles.

Participants will report on the progress of the RCEP negotiations at the first RCEP Ministerial Meeting, scheduled to be held in August 2013 in Brunei Darussalam.

Australia will host the second round of negotiations in Brisbane on 23–27 September 2013.

Joint statement, 9 May 2013

RCEP Launch — November 2012, Phnom Penh

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard joined Leaders from 15 countries of the Asian region in the margins of the East Asia Summit on 20 November 2012 to launch the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.

ASEAN Economic Ministers Plus FTA Partners’ Consultations — August 2012, Phnom Penh

Economic and Trade Ministers politically endorsed the RCEP concept and agreed key elements of RCEP’s scope and level of ambition, expressed in the form of the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Then Minister for Trade and Competitiveness Dr Emerson noted the importance of addressing traditional trade barriers as well as ‘21st Century’ issues, and stated that Australia would pursue the inclusion of labour and environment issues in RCEP.

Submissions

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations will be based on the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP [PDF]. The negotiations will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues that may be agreed in the course of negotiations.

Australia's participation in the RCEP negotiations will form part of the Government's strategy for lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for Australian exporters of goods and services and Australian investors.

DFAT continues to receive submissions from interested stakeholders in relation to Australia's current engagement in separate bilateral trade negotiations with five RCEP participating countries — China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea — and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations involving seven RCEP participating countries (Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam).

Call for public submissions

The Government accords high priority to the views and expertise of all stakeholders with interests in Australia's commercial relationship with the other 15 RCEP participating countries. As part of the process of developing the Government's objectives for the RCEP negotiations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is inviting further public submissions.

DFAT welcomes new and updated public submissions focused on RCEP's potential to provide a basis for more open trade and investment in the region, as well as specific market access barriers and impediments to trade and investment in the various participating countries. Submissions may also wish to address issues associated with RCEP's potential impact on Australia. Submissions are welcomed in the context of Australia's engagement in RCEP and other ongoing bilateral and regional negotiations.

All submissions will be made publicly available on the DFAT website unless the author specifies otherwise.

Interested parties may lodge a submission at any time during the negotiations.

  • Submissions may be lodged electronically to: rcep@dfat.gov.au
  • By post to:
    Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
    Free Trade Agreement Division
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    RG Casey Building
    John McEwen Crescent
    BARTON ACT 0221
  • Fax: (02) 6261 2187

For further information please refer to dfat.gov.au/fta or telephone (02) 6261 1111.

Public submissions to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations

Industry consultations will also be conducted in state/territory capitals. Those interested in participating are invited to advise the RCEP team by email: rcep@dfat.gov.au

For business

RCEP will have the potential to deliver significant opportunities to Australian businesses. The RCEP will cover 9 of Australia's top 12 trading partners, and collectively RCEP participating countries will account for a combined GDP of US$21 trillion. These countries account for almost 60 per cent of Australia's total two way trade, and 70 per cent of our exports.

DFAT background papers

For more information on doing business with RCEP participating countries, or about specific export opportunities, please refer to the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) website. Austrade's AANZFTA website has further information about doing business in ASEAN.

Other FTAs with RCEP participating countries

Other FTAs between and among the RCEP participating parties will co-exist. Businesses will be able to decide which FTA they will use, based on a range of factors such as the tariffs and associated rules of origin applied. Many Australian export businesses currently make these assessments, for example, between SAFTA or TAFTA and AANZFTA.

Australia has existing trade agreements with:

Australia is negotiating trade and economic partnership agreements with:

Australia and six other RCEP countries are also negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

DFAT maintains up-to-date country and regional factsheets containing economic data about each of the RCEP participating countries.

Contact us

  • Email: rcep@dfat.gov.au
  • Fax: +61 2 6261 2187
  • Mail:
    RCEP Enquiries
    Free Trade Agreement Division
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    R.G. Casey Building
    John McEwen Crescent
    Barton ACT 0221

For media enquiries, please call DFAT's Media Liaison Section: (02) 6261 1555.