On April 25th, the High-level Forum for RCEP Economic and Trade Cooperation opened in Qingdao, Shandong Province. Gao Yan, Chairperson of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC); Wang Xiulin, Vice Chairman of Shandong People’s Political Consultative Conference; Zhao Haozhi, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Qingdao Municipal Committee and Mayor of Qingdao; Lin Yuhui, Secretary General of the ASEAN Secretariat; Ramon Lopez, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines; Sansern Samalapa, Vice Minister for Commerce of Thailand, and Chen Yaozong, Chief Economic Advisor of the Malaysia-China Business Council attended the opening ceremony and delivered speeches. The forum attracted over a total of 120,000 participants both online and offline, including Shi Zhiguang, Minister of the Malaysian Embassy in China; Dino Kusnadi, Minister of the Indonesian Embassy in China, and other government representatives, well-known entrepreneurs, heads of business associations, experts and scholars. Zhang Shaogang, Vice Chairman of CCPIT and CCOIC, chaired the opening ceremony.
Gao Yan said that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a milestone achievement in China's efforts to build a new system of open economy at a higher level. She called on the business communities of RCEP member countries to make relevant efforts in their respective country and work together for the early entry into force and implementation of RCEP. She made it clear that CCPIT would give full play to its unique advantages in connecting governments and enterprises, and in promoting communication at home and abroad, well introduce and communicate relevant policies to enterprises, optimize the issuance of certificates of origin, and deliver targeted services to enterprises. She said that those measures would help take regional economic and trade cooperation to a new stage, open up new space for China's economic development, and inject new impetus into regional and even global economic recovery and growth.
Wang Xiulin said that by fully leveraging its advantages in location, industry and opening up, Shandong Province has initiated the construction of RCEP Qingdao pilot innovation base for economic and trade cooperation. He stressed that Qingdao would strengthen economic and trade cooperation with RCEP member countries, and promote in-depth integration of regional industrial supply chains and value chains, making RCEP region among the first to see economic recovery.
Zhao Haozhi said that Qingdao has natural geographical advantages and long-term economic and trade cooperation foundation in engaging in RCEP. He mentioned that Qingdao would seize the major strategic opportunities brought by RCEP, and launch pilots in trade facilitation, service opening up, and free investment under the guidance of RCEP Qingdao pilot innovation base for economic and trade cooperation, in a bid to accelerate the establishment of an important pivot of opening up to RCEP member countries.
Lin Yuhui pointed out that the signing of the RCEP agreement would bring tremendous business opportunities and more jobs to member countries by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers, promoting regional trade and investment, and restructuring regional supply chains. He said that this would help establish a rules-based multilateral trading system that facilitates post-epidemic economic recovery.
Ramon Lopez said that as the spread of COVID-19 is increasing global uncertainties, the significance of signing the RCEP agreement becomes more prominent. Exports to RCEP member countries account for 50% of Philippine total exports and 68% of its imports are from RCEP member countries. He also said that Philippines regards RCEP as a catalyst for economic development, considering that RCEP provides not only a broader market for its key products, but also an important platform for attracting investment in manufacturing, research and development, financial services, e-commerce, etc.
Sansern Samalapa stated that as a driving force for regional strategic value and a catalyst for more free and open global economy, the RCEP agreement would further consolidate the multilateral trading system. He said that Thailand is doing its utmost to expedite the ratification of the RECP agreement, and has established the RCEP Center of the Thailand Ministry of Commerce as a one-stop service center to provide enterprises with relevant information and services.
Chen Yaozong said that the relationship between Malaysia and China is at a new historical starting point at which it develops rapidly after long-term accumulation and seeks new progress by building upon past achievements. Thus, deepening the bilateral relationship is quite timely and will bring more development opportunities. He stressed that following the signing of the RCEP agreement, Malaysia and China can not only increase trade volume and expand new areas of economic and trade cooperation, but also give full play to each other's advantages under the framework of the agreement to jointly develop third-party markets.
At the opening ceremony, Zhang Shaogang issued Qingdao Initiative on Jointly Promoting RCEP Regional Economic and Trade Cooperation on behalf of the trade promotion agencies and business associations of RCEP member countries. The initiative supports an open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory, and rules-based multilateral trading regime, and the following consensus has been reached: The signing of the RCEP agreement is of great significance to regional economic growth and global economic recovery; RCEP member countries should integrate high-quality resources to restructure regional supply and value chains; RCEP service platforms should be established actively to help enterprises expand business in RCEP member countries; RCEP member countries should support pilot reforms introduced by relevant local governments to promote SMEs’ development and economic and technical cooperation.
This forum is the first large-scale economic and trade forum held after the signing of the RCEP agreement. It is hosted by CCOIC, Qingdao Municipal People’s Government, co-organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Shandong Sub-council, Department of Commerce of Shandong Province, Shandong Port Group Co.,Ltd, Shibei District People’s Government of Qingdao, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Qingdao Sub-council (MICE Office), Qingdao Bureau of Commerce, Foreign Affairs Office of Qingdao Municipal People's Government, and Qingdao International Cruise Port Service and Administration Bureau.
The forum is held both online and offline, with the theme of "Sharing Opportunities for Recovery and Development". It is composed of an opening ceremony, special speeches, seminars and site visits, etc. The forum discussed and identified the industrial cooperation opportunities among RCEP member countries, aiming to build a platform for exchanges and cooperation among enterprises from member countries, fully explore the potential of RCEP's favorable policies, promote enterprises to restructure supply chains and value chains from a "RCEP perspective", and create new momentum for the global economic recovery.
As the venue of this forum, Qingdao, by seizing the opportunities brought by RCEP, also ushers in a new round of opening up expansion. Shibei District of Qingdao takes advantage of the trend and deeply engages in RCEP economic and trade cooperation. It will focus on developing the RCEP Qingdao pilot innovation base for economic and trade cooperation, with Qingdao International Cruise Port as the core area. This will expand the strategic space for Qingdao to enhance its core competitiveness and build a new development pattern.
On April 15th, China formally deposited the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement” approval letter with the Secretary-General of ASEAN. This marks China's formal completion of the RCEP approval process. China is the first non-ASEAN member states to officially complete the approval process. At present, all parties are speeding up the approval and entry into force of the agreement.