TOKYO -- Two sweeping multilateral partnership agreements offer hope for furthering Asian economic integration and promoting cooperation amid the trade tensions and inward-looking policies gripping some governments, Brunei's Second Finance and Economy Minister Amin Liew Abdullah said on Thursday.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) complement each other, Amin told Nikkei's Future of Asia conference. Both, he said, emphasize trade rules and facilitate progressive reforms that reflect the changing needs and nature of businesses and investors.
"Together, the CPTPP and RCEP stand to promote trade liberalization in the Asia-Pacific, further entrenching the region's importance to economic growth and global trade," he said.
Amin noted that despite the economic benefits and opportunities free trade offers, it still stirs negative sentiments, particularly over job losses in less efficient, competitive industries.
"We should not let this make us lose sight of the many benefits that free trade brings," he stressed. "Instead, we should tackle head-on the root cause of the problems, namely complacency and structural barriers hindering innovation and enhanced competitiveness.
"We should also appreciate that regional integration efforts have other positive impacts beyond the economic angle, such as enhanced people-to-people engagements, and deepened appreciation of each other's traditions and cultures."
If enforced, the RCEP would become the world's largest trading bloc, accounting for 3.4 billion people with a total gross domestic product of $49.5 trillion.
The proposed megadeal is built upon existing agreements involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six dialogue partners -- Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, the CPTPP represents 13.4% of global GDP, making it one of the largest trade pacts after the North American Free Trade Agreement.
CPTPP member states are former signatories of the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership -- excluding the U.S., which pulled out after President Donald Trump's inauguration. The remaining countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
According to the Pearsons Institute of International Economics, if both the RCEP and CPTPP are implemented, by 2030 the former would lead to annual global income gains of $238 billion, while the latter would boost collective incomes by $157 billion.