Closing the year 2021, the ASEAN Secretariat, in partnership with the East Asia Business Council, held the 5th round of the RCEP webinar series on 16 December. The discussion focused on competition, government procurement, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the economic and technical cooperation chapters of the Agreement. 

In her opening remarks, Sulaimah Mahmood, Senior Director of the ASEAN and Southeast Asia and Oceania divisions in Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, underscored the importance for businesses, particularly SMEs, in the region to familiarise themselves with the RCEP, especially since SMEs account for the majority of businesses in the region. 

As the RCEP Agreement will enter into force on 1 January 2022, RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs) are intensifying their preparatory work at the regional and domestic levels.

On the regional level, RPCs are currently finalising the necessary measures and institutional arrangements to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the Agreement. In the same vein, RPCs are also putting in place the necessary implementing laws and regulations at the domestic level. 

The discussions also highlighted the opportunity provided by the RCEP to facilitate the integration of SMEs into the regional value chain and the potential impact on narrowing the development gap. In this regard, panellists and speakers agreed that tailor-made regulations are needed to help SMEs to be better integrated into the regional as well as global value chains. 

In addition, governments are expected to play a major role in preparing SMEs to reap the benefits the RCEP has to offer. It was also underlined that improving the capacity of SMEs through capacity-building activities would be essential to enhance their competitiveness. The link to the full video of the webinar can be accessed through this link.

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