---- Challenges and way forward ----
Realizing these benefits hinges on rising to several challenges during negotiations and afterwards (Hiebert and Hanlon 2012, Das Basu 2012, Kawai and Wignaraja 20...
13). First is the political challenge of ensuring that participants, including the regional giants, respect the central role of ASEAN in RCEP negotiations. Second is overcoming the risk, arising from the divergent interests of more- and less-developed economies, that the RCEP achieves little trade and investment liberalization and is encumbered by many protectionist exclusions. Third is for the RCEP to gradually improve its coverage of new trade issues, such as competition policy and environmental and labor standards, which are increasingly a feature in the most comprehensive regional trade agreements in Asia
and internationally. Fourth is the risk that businesses fail to avail themselves of the RCEP because they insufficiently understand its legal provisions, particularly as they affect small and medium-sized enterprises. The way forward for RCEP negotiations is to use the best features of existing Asian FTAs, including existing ASEAN+1 FTAs, as the bases for negotiations toward the best possible RCEP; to establish a clear timetable for concluding RCEP negotiations; and to actively involve the private sector in negotiations. Significant outreach and business services need to be provided to small and medium-sized enterprises to maximize the benefits they will enjoy and lower the costs of using the RCEP.
Das Basu, S. 2012. RCEP: Going Beyond ASEAN+1 FTAs. ISEAS perspective, 17 August. http://www.iseas.edu.sg
Hiebert, M. and L. Hanlon. 2012. ASEAN and Partners Launch Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. http://csis.org/
partnership Petri, P., G. Plummer, and F. Zhai. 2012. Note on Alternative Asian Track Scenarios. http://asiapacifictrade.org/wp-content/
Kawai, M. and G. Wignaraja. 2013. Patterns of FTAs in Asia: A Review of Recent Evidence. Policy Studies No. 65. Honolulu: East West Center. http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/patternsfree-trade-areas-in-asia
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