Relations with Beijing were severed earlier this year after Canberra called for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus, which first broke out in late 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. An Indonesian product containing, for example, Australian coins could expect tariffs elsewhere in the Asean Free Trade Area. "Its membership includes a larger group of nations, in part because of China`s membership, which significantly increases the total gross domestic product (GDP) of RCEP members," said Rajiv Biswas, chief economist at analyst firm IHS Markit. The signatory states will also work together on a number of issues, including helping small and medium-sized enterprises overcome barriers to the use of e-commerce, promoting the development of practices that strengthen consumer confidence, and targeted cooperation in the areas of research, training, capacity building and technical assistance. To address this problem, Australia will provide US$46 million to provide technical assistance and capacity building to help ASEAN eligible countries implement their RCEP commitments. But it may be some time before any country sees the benefits, because six Asean nations and three other nations must ratify them before they become effective. Mr. Marro thinks it could be a slow process. The conflict escalated into a trade dispute that affected a dozen Australian industries and threatened billions of dollars worth of exports of agricultural products, wood and resources to China.

Other changes include new flexibility for trade in services across the region, including telecommunications services, professional and financial services; Improved mechanisms to remove non-tariff barriers to trade, including in areas such as customs procedures, quarantine and technical standards; Greater investment security for businesses new e-commerce rules to make it easier for businesses to trade online; A common set of intellectual property rules; and agreed rules of origin to increase the competitiveness of signatory markets within regional production chains. ASEAN, the association of Southeast Asian nations, is gaining importance as a trading bloc and is the third largest in the world after the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It includes the Asian Tigers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (ASEAN 6) with smaller players such as Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, with a total GDP of $2.31 trillion (2012) and hosts about 600 million people. How Australia-China relations reached the "lowest tides in decades." Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei - along with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

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