Asia-Pacific leaders sign RCEP

On November 15, 2020, 15 Asia-Pacific countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) nearly one year after negotiations came to a close.

The signatories include the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their six FTA partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. India withdrew from negotiations in 2019, reportedly citing its desire to safeguard domestic industries.

Chapter 10 of the agreement covers investment, and includes standard definitions of investor and investment (though excluding government procurement), and substantive investment provisions.  The chapter also includes sections on investment promotion and facilitation, including, in Article 10.17.1(d), the commitment to establish or maintain “contact points, one-stop investment centres, focal points or other entities … to provide assistance and advisory services to investors,” and, where appropriate, to amicably settle disputes between investors and state entities.

Notably, the agreement does not include ISDS at this time. However, Article 10.18 lays out a process for the parties to enter into discussions on whether to include ISDS, and apply the treaty’s prohibition of expropriation to taxation measures. These talks should take place in the next two years. Moreover, the RCEP confirms the existence of treaties among the signatories which are already in force, many of which include ISDS provisions.