Dialogue eyes key role of youth in RCEP region’s growth

BEIJING, Dec. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The following article was published today by China Daily.

Investing in and empowering young people is vital for members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade pact to shore up sustained growth and accelerate global economic recovery amid the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, leading scholars and media executives said.

They made the call on Friday at the high-end RCEP Youth Dialogue themed “Pooling the strength of youth, promoting regional development”.

The dialogue, co-organized by China Daily, the China Institute for Reform and Development and China Oceanic Development Foundation, focused on the RCEP — a 15-nation free trade pact which was officially enacted on Jan 1.

The RCEP consists of all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The grouping accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total population, economic output and trade.

Since taking effect this year, the RCEP has manifested enormous dynamism and huge potential for future development, speakers told the opening ceremony of the forum.

Qu Yingpu, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, said, “The world economy has been struggling to recover in the face of multiple impacts. The prospects for the world economy next year remain far from rosy.”

As the free trade pact covering the largest population and size of economy and trade in the world in comparison with other pacts, the RCEP is “definitely going to further play its role as a stabilizer and a driver of the global economy”, he said.

In the first 10 months of this year, China’s total trade with the other 14 member states of the RCEP increased by 8.4 percent year-on-year, he noted.

“The RCEP substantially boosts the scale, quality and depth of regional economic integration, and it plays an important role in advancing the economic recovery, peace and stability of the entire region as well as the whole world, and boosting the well-being of the people,” Qu said.

In his speech, Qu called on young people in the RCEP member countries to pool their wisdom and create an enabling environment for the region’s development, boost mutual understanding among people in RCEP member states, and advance openness, cooperation and mutual benefit in the region.

Lyu Bin, president of China Oceanic Development Foundation, noted that the Asia-Pacific has become one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world, and it boasts a high level of trade liberalization.

“Over the past 100 to 200 years, the pivot of the global economy and trade was in Europe and North America. The founding of the RCEP symbolizes that the world economy is starting to shift its pivot to the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

RCEP members now face opportunities brought by the free trade pact as well as unprecedented difficulties and challenges, he said.

The challenges include the lingering Ukraine crisis, the rocky future of global trade, dire problems in food and energy security and a possible stagnation of the world economy, he said.

“Effectively tapping into the opportunities for growth brought by the RCEP will surely further activate the potential for collaboration in various domains and make businesses in various countries better share the opportunities for development brought by the vast market,” he added.

According to a recent survey conducted by China Daily’s Generation Z Research Center, which polled 500 young people from 40 countries and regions worldwide, 90 percent of the respondents said they perceive the RCEP as “very important” or “fairly important”.

The respondents said they expect the RCEP to benefit international trade cooperation and development, and they believe that the implementation of the RCEP will also benefit young people.

Chi Fulin, president of China Institute for Reform and Development, noted that the total population of those aged 15 to 44 among RCEP member countries was 920 million last year, and the number will rise to 940 million in 2030.

“Amid the severe impact of the pandemic on the global economy and the upsurge of unilateralism and protectionism, joint building of the largest free trade zone in the world requires dedication and a sense of duty among young people in the region as well as efforts to inspire the their dynamism, creativity and influence,” Chi said.

He urged the RCEP to create a more open and inclusive environment for the development of young people, boost young people’s access to the digital economy, unlock the huge potential of the youth human resources and facilitate their entrepreneurship, employment and pursuit for vocational skills.

Chi also called for building more platforms such as advisory boards to help young business leaders engage in economic and trade governance and advancing cultural exchange programs.