RCEP: Designing an Agreement for the Future

Officials have clearly got a focus on helping the smallest firms in RCEP benefit from the final agreement.  This is a welcome development, since every country in the grouping is dominated by smaller size companies. The one area of sustained focus in RCEP that will be most promising for SMEs is e-commerce and digital trade.  E-commerce and digital trade represent the fastest and easiest way for smaller firms to connect to suppliers, consumers and lead firms.  Given the relatively higher levels of connectivity in Asia compared to other regions, this pathway can be developed further quickly with the right policies in place and help lead to new growth opportunities. Even getting this chapter right is difficult, since it requires that officials think hard about the rules that should structure the business environment today and still remain relevant tomorrow.  The rules need to provide adequate protections for consumers, deal effectively with security concerns but not unduly hamper business plans now or in the future.