BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei has ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free trade agreement, almost one year after signing the 15-nation pact.

In a statement issued Monday night, the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) said Brunei deposited the instrument of ratification with the ASEAN Secretary-General on October 11.

“Brunei Darussalam’s timely ratification of the RCEP agreement signals our strong commitment to support the region’s post-pandemic recovery efforts, strengthening our economic and trade linkages, creating new opportunities for our businesses as well as support for an open, inclusive, rules-based multilateral trading system,” the ministry said.

The ASEAN-led trade agreement includes all 10 members states, as well as five of its major trading partners: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and Korea.

The 15 member countries account for about 30 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP (US$26.2 trillion), making it the biggest trade bloc in history.

MoFE said RCEP will provide new opportunities for Bruneian producers and businesses, especially in terms of market access given the level of liberalisation for trade in goods, services and investment.

The FTA is expected to eliminate about 90% percent of the tariffs on imports within 20 years of coming into force, and establish common rules for e-commerce, trade, and intellectual property.

Brunei becomes the sixth country to ratify RCEP — joining Singapore, Thailand, Japan, China and Cambodia — who all ratified the agreement earlier this year.

The deal will only come into effect once six ASEAN and three-non ASEAN signatories have ratified the pact.

“Realising that its full potential can only be achieved once the agreement enters into force, Brunei Darussalam looks forward to its RCEP partners to expedite their respective domestic ratification procedures,” MoFE added.

The targeted date for the agreement to enter into force is January 1, 2022.

RCEP was signed at the ASEAN Summit on November 15, 2020 after eight years of negotiation.