RCEP boosts trade among member countries
A gantry crane loads containers onto a freight train in Nanning international railway port in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Dec 31, 2021. (Photo by Xinhua)

At the Nanning International Railway Port in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, containers of mini tillers are loaded onto the China-Vietnam freight trains, ready for their cross-border journey.

The owner of these China-made mini tillers is Vu Quang Hai, who runs a farm machinery company in Vietnam. He has imported over 2,800 mini tillers from China since the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement took effect on Jan 1, 2022.

The RCEP, the world’s largest free trade deal to date, covers 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its five free trade agreement partners, namely China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

The RCEP countries account for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and population. Over 90 percent of trade in goods among approved member states will gradually be tariff-free.

“The RCEP has brought tangible benefits to merchants engaging in cross-border trade like me. Those tillers are rather popular in Vietnam, and my business is doing better than ever,” said Vu Quang Hai.

The convenient and affordable cross-border rail transport has also facilitated the business, said Vu Quang Hai.

Qin Yufang, who works with the China Railway Nanning Group Co Ltd told Xinhua that the demand for cross-border railway freight transportation between China and ASEAN countries has been booming this year.

“A total of 57 Vietnam-bound freight trains departed from China in the first quarter of the year, registering a sharp increase of 128 percent. And over 20 new types of goods, including glass, farm machinery, and biscuits, have joined the trip,” said Qin.

Besides tariff reduction, the free trade pact also plays a positive role in expanding market access for investment, harmonizing rules and regulations, streamlining customs procedures, and setting standard rules concerning the development of e-commerce and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Malaysian Tong Kui Boon, a wine dealer in China, was excited to hear about the implementation of the RCEP in Malaysia.

“I have lived in China for nine years, and I believe the RCEP not only facilitates trade exchanges but also offers wider cultural exchanges. More and more of my friends in Malaysia are now considering joining cross-border trade with China,” said Tong.

China released a guideline in January to push for the high-quality implementation of the RCEP pact and deepen reform via high-level opening-up.

It stated that China will further improve trade and investment facilitation, boost the role of RMB settlement in supporting trade and investment, and strengthen cooperation in high-end industrial chain and manufacturing projects to foster a diversified global supply chain network.

“We have, since this year, exported nearly 5 million yuan ($785,600) of goods to Malaysia. And the total export volume to RCEP countries has exceeded 50 million yuan,” said Zheng Zuguo, manager of a color-liquid crystal displays manufacturer in Beihai, China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Zheng said the company has been exporting products to Malaysia for many years. With the implementation of the RCEP in Malaysia, the company is expected to receive millions of yuan in tariff reduction for its products sold to Malaysia every year.

“Orders from Malaysia have risen about 20 percent year-on-year so far this year,” said Zheng.

Comprehensive and high-level plurilateral e-commerce rules have taken shape in the Asia-Pacific region after the RCEP took effect. It has led to a more convenient and orderly development environment.

Benjamas Tanvetyanont, Thai Consul-General in Nanning, Guangxi’s capital, in late March joined a livestreaming sale to promote products.

Events like livestreaming sales help promote economic and trade relations between Thailand and China, she said, noting e-commerce can help increase income in rural areas of both countries.