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Interview: RCEP, China's economic rebound to assist ASEAN's post-pandemic recovery, says expert

(Xinhua)    16:29, July 18, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, if signed, could contribute to the post-pandemic recovery in the region, with China's economic growth in the recent quarter being a "convincing reassurance" for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an expert has told Xinhua.

Ong Tee Keat, founding chairman of the Center for New Inclusive Asia Studies, a think tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said that the recently concluded 36th ASEAN Summit further reaffirmed the commitment of ASEAN and its partners to upholding an open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral trading system through the RCEP.

"This is particularly timely and crucial to ASEAN against the backdrop of a gloomy global economy in the post-COVID-19 era on one hand; and in the wake of rising de-globalization on the other," he noted.

Ong said he believes that this mammoth economic partnership will further transform the region into a global ASEAN, enhancing its significance in creating resilient supply chains worldwide.

"Optimistically, this may contribute to the challenging post-pandemic recovery," said the expert.

Once it takes effect, the RCEP could also bring benefits to ordinary people in ASEAN, Ong said, stressing that free trade market access with lower tariffs for the entire ASEAN is "all set to grow by leaps and bounds."

"This would hopefully translate into more job creation, higher GDP growth, and speedier poverty reduction to the ASEAN of 650 million people," he added.

The economic ties between ASEAN and China will also be further strengthened, as countries across the region are seeking recovery from the COVID-19 shock, the expert said.

According to data from China's General Administration of Customs, China's trade with ASEAN stood at 2.09 trillion yuan (299 billion U.S. dollars) in the first six months, up 5.6 percent year-on-year, making ASEAN China's biggest trading partner in this period.

China had posted a positive growth of 3.2 percent in the second quarter this year, which "clearly signifies that China is now on the threshold of economic recovery," while the rest of the world, including the United States and the developed West, still remains in the economic doldrums with negative growth, Ong said.

Noting that the region is now endeavoring to usher in a strong and resilient economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 period, Ong said "this could only be facilitated through enhanced cooperation and coordination as well as sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth following the crisis."

"Undeniably, China is the only partnering nation which is now ready with economic prowess to meet ASEAN's aspirations," the expert added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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