China will be able to completely fulfill its obligations under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership when the agreement enters into force, a Ministry of Commerce official said on Monday.
All 15 members of the RCEP are planning to ratify the agreement before the end of 2021 and push for it to take effect on Jan 1, said Yu Benlin, director-general of the Ministry of Commerce's Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs.
China has completed the approval process and became the first country to ratify the agreement, he said, adding that Thailand has also ratified the agreement.
All member parties will convene intensive meetings to report on the progress of their respective approval processes this year, he said.
The ministry and related departments have conducted work involving the 701 binding obligations of the Chinese side related to the RCEP. Through the efforts of various government branches such as the National Development and Reform Commission and the General Administration of Customs, China's preparations for the implementation of 613 items have been completed, accounting for 87 percent of all obligations, he said.
The official said preparation for other items can also be concluded before the implementation of the agreement.
The RCEP, which includes China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, represents the world's largest free trade agreement. It covers a third of the global population and 30 percent of the world's GDP, according to Commerce Ministry data.
After China and its partners signed the RCEP agreement late last year, the deal will come into force if at least nine members enact it, including at least six members of ASEAN, and at least three countries out of the other five non-ASEAN members, Yu added.
Once the RCEP takes effect, countries will immediately reduce tariffs in accordance with the agreement, fulfill their commitment to open investment in the service sector, and implement the rules in all areas of the pact, said Jiang Feng, director-general of the Department of Duty Collection at the GAC.
As China and its partners signed the RCEP agreement and it plans to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Michael Lai, general manager of China operations at AstraZeneca, the British multinational pharmaceutical company, said these moves will pave the way for the company to ship more products manufactured from its plants in Jiangsu province to other Asia-Pacific markets.
"Benefiting from the RCEP, we can make full use of the resources from the same economic region for production. It will be easier for the drugs to obtain the original qualification of the contracting countries, and finally enjoy more preferential tariff rates and trade treatment," he said.
The implementation of the RCEP rules can stabilize and optimize value chains in the Asia-Pacific region between participating countries, in particular developing nations, said Wei Xiaoquan, a researcher specializing in regional economic development at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
China and New Zealand signed an upgraded protocol of their bilateral free trade agreement in January to improve the level of market opening based on the RCEP pact.
The GAC said on Monday that China's imports of New Zealand goods that get tariff reduction and exemption maintained an average annual growth rate of 23.1 percent since 2009.
In addition, following the implementation of the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in October 2008, duties totaling 28.39 billion yuan ($4.36 billion) were exempted from China's imports of New Zealand goods.