英文

Editorial : Participate in the Economic Integration of East Asia

【明報專訊】While globalisation has run into a headwind in the West, East Asia and Oceania have taken an important step towards regional economic integration. 15 countries, which comprise the 10 ASEAN nations and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), marking the formal conclusion of the world's largest free trade agreement. Multilateral free trade co-operation is an irreversible trend even though the US has turned its back on it, and China's integration into the global market and the deepening of its openness will not be halted because of Washington's diplomatic containment. The RCEP, which includes the major countries of East Asia and Oceania, represents non-Western economic globalisation and will accelerate the formation of an East Asian economic sphere. As an important logistic and financial centre in the region, Hong Kong should actively seek to join the RCEP and seize the opportunities of East Asia's economic integration.

The RCEP accounts for around one-third of the global population and around 30% of the world's GDP. The agreement is aimed at minimising trade barriers and lowering the threshold of market entry. The goal is to reduce customs duties to zero in ten years, open services and trade in the region and promote investments, freight transportation and the movement of people.

The RCEP does not include the US, and India withdrew from the negotiations last year for fear of an influx of China's products after lowering the tariffs, which would hurt local industries. Not only is China an important promoter of the RCEP, but it also accounts for a large proportion of the RCEP's economic size. In the post-pandemic era, the reorganisation of global industrial and supply chains and the economic integration of East Asia will present important opportunities for China. The RCEP will be an important platform for China's push to promote its digital currency and internationalise the RMB. It is a natural development that the agreement will help China expand its influence in the region. However, it must be pointed out that the RCEP does not reflect the mentality of the West that "the strong get to call the shots". The agreement will not force the opening of markets, but will rather focus on mutual consent and seek a win-win situation. The 10 ASEAN countries provide a balancing factor, while Japan and Korea also have an equally important role to play.

The Trump administration has focused its effort on fighting a trade and technology war with China, but it has abandoned the battlefield of multilateral free trade agreement (FTA) rule-setting rights. After Biden takes office, it will not be easy for the US to rejoin the CPTPP even if he wants to given the mood of domestic protectionism in the country. In the first half of this year, ASEAN replaced the EU as China's largest trading partner, and the RCEP marks the first time that China and Japan have reached an agreement on tariff concessions. It has also laid the foundations for China-Japan-South Korea trilateral free trade negotiations. The East Asian economic bloc is gradually becoming self-sustaining and is no longer lopsidedly dependent on the West. This is a major paradigm shift. Although Hong Kong is not a member of the RCEP, it still needs to make early preparations and reflect on its own position and role. As a free port, Hong Kong does not have tariffs on imports. However, by reducing barriers to services and investment, the RCEP is expected to provide more opportunities for Hong Kong to trade more actively in the region and to capitalise on Hong Kong's advantages as a logistic and financial centre.

明報社評2020.11.19:東亞經濟一體化 香港參與勿遲疑

西方吹起反全球化逆風,東亞跟大洋洲則為區域經濟一體化邁出重要一步,東盟10國與中日韓澳紐合共15個國家,日前簽署《區域全面經濟伙伴關係協定》(RCEP),標誌全球規模最大的自由貿易協定正式達成,多邊自由貿易合作,不會因為美國卻步而走回頭路,中國融入全球市場、深化對外開放,也不會因為華府外交圍堵操作而停止。RCEP包羅東亞及大洋洲主要國家,代表了不以西方為中心的經濟全球化,加速東亞經濟圈的形成。香港作為區內重要物流和金融中心,應積極爭取加入RCEP,好好把握東亞經濟一體化的機遇。

RCEP涵蓋世界約三分之一人口,佔全球經濟體生產總值大約三成。協定旨在減少貿易壁壘和降低市場准入門檻,爭取10年內逐步降至零關稅,同時開放區內服務貿易,促進投資、貨運及人員流動。

RCEP成員不包括美國,印度則因為擔心降低關稅後大量中國貨湧入,打擊本土產業,去年退出談判。中國既是RCEP重要推動者,經濟體量佔比亦重,放眼後疫情時代,全球產業鏈和供應鏈重組,東亞區域經濟一體化,將為中國帶來重要機遇;中國推動數碼貨幣和人民幣國際化,RCEP也將成為重要平台。協定有助中國擴大在區內影響力,乃是很自然的發展,然而必須指出的是,RCEP所體現的,並不是以往西方那種「強者話事」思維,不會強人所難、強迫開放市場,而是更着重你情我願、尋求共贏,東盟10國發揮了平衡作用,日韓角色同樣吃重。

特朗普政府將精力放在跟中國打貿易戰科技戰,卻放棄了多邊自貿規則制訂權這個戰場。拜登上台後,受制於國內保護主義,就算想重新加入CPTPP亦不容易。今年上半年,東盟已取代歐盟,成為中國最大貿易伙伴,RCEP標誌中日首次達成關稅減讓安排,同時為中日韓三邊自貿談判奠下基礎。東亞經濟漸漸自成一個體系,不再一面倒依託於西方,這是重大格局轉變,現時香港雖非RCEP一員,也要及早籌謀,反思自身定位和角色。香港是自由港,進口本來就沒有關稅,然而RCEP減少服務業與投資方面的壁壘,可望為香港提供更多機會,區內貿易更趨活躍,也有利香港發揮物流和金融中心的優勢。

■Glossary 生字

headwind /ˈhedwɪnd/

a wind blowing in the opposite direction to the one you are moving in

logistic /ləˈdʒɪstɪk/

relating to the detailed organisation of an activity

freight /freɪt/

goods transported in bulk by truck, train, ship, or aircraft

上 / 下一篇新聞