The largest economic zone in the world has been created in Asia-Pacific. The trade agreement had already been signed by China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the November summit in Bangkok last year. It is a treaty of great economic significance not only for Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region but also for the rest of the world. It means the creation of the largest economic free trade zone in the world. With the very striking absence of the United States, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
An agreement that has been dubbed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association (RCEP, acronym in English), and was signed virtually yesterday Sunday during the summit, held annually, of the nations of Southeast Asia (ASEAN). Ratification by the parliaments of each country was pending for its full entry into force, which has taken a year. 15 countries from Asia and Oceania participate in the treaty – the 10 members of ASEAN together with China, Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand – since India, a participant in all the previous negotiations, has decided not to sign the agreement for now for reasons of “national interest”, that is, the current deficit in its trade balance. This great strategic economic agreement was already conceived by China in 2012 in opposition to another trade agreement – the TPP – promoted by the United States at the time of Obama, and which Trump later decided to abandon.
The RCEP will cover 2,300 million inhabitants -34% of the world’s population, and if India were to join it would be about 3,400 million-, and represents almost a third of world GDP -32.2% -, representing 20.6 billion euros. It would also account for a third of global investment and world trade. It is a project that would affect a third of the world’s economy and that would involve a market for almost half of the planet’s population. In addition to reducing import and export prices, it would lead to the unification of trade regulations at the regional level, and it would simplify procedures for producers and distributors. The RCEP signatories have stated that “obviously India would be welcome if it decides to join in the future”.
Faced with this advance in autonomous economic relations between the Asia-Pacific countries – an area that the United States nevertheless considers to be of the utmost geostrategic importance in its objective of maintaining its world hegemony and containing the rise of China – the United States has taken contradictory steps. Trump refused to attend the summit in November last year. Rather, he invited ASEAN leaders to a “special summit” to hold “at home” in the US in early 2020. And the US is not going to stop putting pressure on ASEAN countries. And the same economic-military pressure is also being applied to its main “strategic allies” in the Far East, Japan and South Korea, as well as to Australia and New Zealand.
Given the intensification by the Trump Administration of the confrontation between the United States and China – to which it has declared a trade war that has left its harmful effects on the world economic panorama to which the pandemic has been added – the decisive Asia region- Pacific – the most dynamic and with the greatest demographic and economic projection on the globe – tends to escape the control of the North American superpower. While China has continued with its economic growth and with its project of the New Silk Road, to which it is attracting more and more Asian countries.
The agreement will accelerate the economic recovery in the countries of the region after the pandemic. Despite Washington’s veto and Trump’s protectionism, ASEAN countries – Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – have been closing in on China. An example is that Beijing has committed during the summit to close a code of conduct with ASEAN to avoid an escalation of tensions in the waters of the area. ASEAN has 650 million inhabitants, with a GDP in 2018 of 2.5 trillion dollars – and with the prospect of reaching 4.7 trillion in 2025 – in the process of becoming the fourth economic power in the world.
This change in international economic relations is integrated into the turbulent period that the global order is experiencing on its way to multipolarity. A period of transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order that is being written, and the result of which will depend on several factors, from the decisions that the North American superpower and the emerging powers take, as well as the struggle of all countries and peoples. of the world.
The North American superpower is experiencing its imperial decline, and, on the contrary, other centers of world power emerge uncontrollably demanding to be treated as equals. Hegemonism recedes, and the struggle of the countries and peoples of the world for their national sovereignty and independent development advances.