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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

China launches 1st lunar sample return mission, aims for multiple breakthroughs in aerospace history

China launches Chang’e-5 mission via Long March-5 rocket to retrieve Moon rocks at Wenchang Space Launch Center from South China’s Hainan Province early Tuesday morning. Photo: Li Dike


The Long March-5 Y5, China's state-of-the-art carrier rocket and strongest member of the Long March launch vehicle family, blasted off early Tuesday morning from the Wenchang Space Launch Center located in South China's Hainan Province, successfully sending the Chang'e-5 lunar probe into planned orbit.

About 2,200 seconds after lift-off, the Chang'e-5 lunar probe separated from the rocket and entered the Earth-Moon transfer orbit with the perigee at 200 km and the apogee at about 410,000 km.

Despite the difficulties brought by the COVID-19 epidemic, China's aerospace sector has been able to launch not only the country's first-ever Tianwen-1 Mars probe, but also the latest lunar sample return mission, showcasing the country's resilience and increasingly mature capabilities in the space sphere, according to observers.

Dubbed one of the most complicated and challenging space exploration projects ever attempted, Chang'e-5 will carry out the third stage of China's current lunar programs, which involves three phases—orbiting, landing and return. The first two phases have been completed successfully.

Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times that the highly complex, forward-looking technology applied in this project could be regarded as "an unmanned task that lays the foundation for future manned lunar missions."

"Analysis of the lunar samples shows that contents within the soil and rocks could be turned into water and oxygen, which will be useful in supporting the operation of the Moon base and serve as supplementary fuel for lunar landing vehicles," Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based space expert, told the Global Times.

More importantly, scientists have found in the lunar samples the ideal material for nuclear fusion, and enough of it to meet human's energy needs for about 10,000 years, Pang added.

China's future Chang'e-6 mission will also automatically collect lunar samples for comprehensive analysis and research, and hopefully carry international payloads on board.

Chang'e-7 will comprehensively explore the moon, while Chang'e-8 will explore the possibility of building an international lunar research base, Global Times previously learned from CNSA. Chang'e-8 will also test 3D printer technology in the hopes of assisting future lunar residents.

"To build a research base on the Moon, we first need to figure out what it is made of, by analyzing the soil composition and geological structure, and then making use of the raw materials at hand on the Moon for our own exploration purposes," Song Zhongping, an aerospace observer and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

Infographic: GT

Perfect success rate

China launched its first lunar probe mission, Chang'e-1, in October 24, 2007 via a Long March 3A Y14 carrier rocket. In the 13 years since then, China has launched a total of five missions, all named after the lunar goddess Chang'e, with domestically developed Long March rockets, scoring a perfect success rate.

The 57-meter-long Long March-5, with a take-off weight of about 870 tons and a thrust of over 1,000 tons, is capable of launching a payload of up to 14 tons into the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), making it the go-to rocket model for the mission, as the Chang'e-5 lunar probe weighs 8.2 tons, one of the heaviest probes that has ever been launched by China.

According to China Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), the Long March-5 rocket series will be deployed to launch core and experimental cabinets for the country's first-ever space station, and will be tasked with completing the construction of the space station in two to three years.

"Long March-5 is the only member of the Long March family that is capable of launching such a heavy payload into the lunar transfer orbit. And the mission in return examines the rocket's capabilities and showcases the strength of China's space sector," Li Minghua, the first commander-in-chief of the Long March-5 and Party chief of CALT, under the state-owned aerospace giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the rocket's developer, told the Global Times.

Breakthroughs to make

Infographic: GT

The Chang'e-5 probe is expected to carry out lunar sample collection, takeoff from the moon, rendezvous and docking on lunar orbit and high-speed reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, marking breakthroughs in China's aerospace history.

Sources close to the lunar probe mission told the Global Times that the Chang'e-5 probe is set to achieve four firsts in China's aerospace history.

It will conduct the first-ever robotic sample collecting on the lunar surface, spending two days on the Moon collecting around 2kg of lunar material.

After packaging the lunar material, the probe's lander will perform a highly complex take-off mission from the rough lunar terrain, overcoming the lack of a proper launch tower and other difficulties, which will also be a first.

A greater challenge lies in wait after the lander's lift-off, as the Chang'e-5 ascender will have to rendezvous and dock with the orbital module at the lunar orbit some 380,000 kilometers away from Earth, which has never been done before.

Finally, the return capsule carrying moon samples will then fly to Earth from 380,000 kilometers away at a speed of 11 kilometers per second, reaching second cosmic velocity.

Interestingly, based on what the sources revealed to the Global Times, designers with the China Academy of Space Technology under CASC have come up with a semi-ballistic reentry to help the high-speed spacecraft return to Earth safely.

Similar to the way a stone can skip over water, the return capsule will sprint into the atmosphere and then ascend again out of it, in order to reduce its flying speed to first cosmic velocity, which is around 8 kilometers per second, before landing safely at the designated site on Earth.

Wang Yanan explained that this measure will greatly reduce the risk of damaging the return capsule and will ensure the sample's safety.

When asked why it was decided that the Chang'e-5 probe would take off early in the morning rather than in the daytime, CALT insiders told the Global Times that early morning would make it easier to enter the trajectory designed for the complex mission.

Also, taking off in the early morning will help reduce interference from the Sun, as solar radiation will disrupt the transmission of electric signals, affecting the tracking and controlling of the spacecraft from ground personnel, they said.

There are also less clouds and stabler weather conditions in the early morning, which will also help signal transmission and scientists' observations, they revealed.

The Chang'e-5 is scheduled to touch down in an area that has never been visited either by probe or human, in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or "Ocean of Storms" - a region in the Moon's northwest corner which is visible to the naked eye from Earth.

Scientists believe that the rocks and soil in the region are only 3.7 billion years old. Compared with the previous lunar samples brought back to Earth, it will help scientists to understand better the volcanic activities of the Moon. Some engineering factors were also taken into consideration in choosing this site.

The lunar material collected by the Chang'e-5 probe was formed from the space weathering of lunar rocks after meteorite impact, solar wind and cosmic ray radiation. It consists of a considerable amount of rock fragments, minerals and meteorites, which provide valuable information for studying the geological evolution of the moon, as well as solar activities, Xiao Long, a professor at the Wuhan-based China University of Geosciences, told the Global Times.

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union successfully carried out three robotic sample return missions that retrieved a total of 330 grams of lunar soil. The Chang'e-5 plans to bring back 2 kilograms in one single mission.

The gap in weight reflects how much the ability to retrieve lunar samples has advanced over the past decades, Pang Zhihao said.

He explained that back in the 1970s, the Soviet Union missions adopted a direct ascending and return plan from the lunar surface, which required the ascender to use large amounts of fuel to carry the huge load on the return capsule, resulting in the sample weight being greatly compressed.

The Chang'e-5, however, is expected to carry out rendezvous and docking with the orbital module in the lunar orbit, greatly reducing the amount of fuel needed for the ascender and allowing room for more samples.

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RCEP shows Asia can act independently of US

Malaysia and other partner nations are looking forward to better days ahead after signing the world’s largest trade deal.

THE Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), eagerly awaited by 15 member nations and their 2.2 billion people, was finally signed last Sunday after eight years of negotiations and delays.

This regional free trade agreement has injected hope into the economies of member nations as they struggle to contain the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest trade deal in the world signed on Nov 15 during a virtual summit in Vietnam will, among others, allow participating countries to enjoy major tariff cuts.

Covering 30% of the global economy and global population, the RCEP will broaden and deepen economic linkages across the Asia Pacific region, ease trade in goods and services and facilitate the flow of investments.

The Geneva-based United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) believes that the RCEP could give “a significant boost” to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region.

“The provisions related to market access and disciplines in trade, services and e-commerce are highly relevant for regional value chains and market-seeking investment,” said the UN body in its special issue on investment trends last Sunday.

With China being a participating nation, others within the bloc will be able to gain easier access to China’s vast market of 1.4 billion people, including its 400-million strong middle-class income group.

And China, being the largest economy in Asia, will find it easier to export its capital to Asean and other RCEP nations after having faced political barriers in its investments in the West in recent years.

The RCEP comprises 10 Asean members (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand) and five others in the region – Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Indeed, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s remark after the signing could best summarise the importance and impact of the trade agreement.

He described the signing of the RCEP as a “major step forward for the world at a time when multilateralism is losing ground and global growth is slowing”, according to The Straits Times.

“It signals our collective commitment to maintaining open and connected supply chains, and to promoting freer trade and closer interdependence, especially in the face of Covid-19 when countries are turning inwards and are under protectionist pressures,” he added at the virtual conference hosted by Vietnam.

Premier Li Keqiang of China, which has been suffering from the US-led trade war, said the RCEP “is a victory of multilateralism and free trade” and “it let people choose unity and cooperation in the face of challenges, rather than conflict and confrontation.” In its analysis, Global Times said: “The conclusion of the RCEP indicates that most Asian countries endorse free trade framework and see it as a landmark step toward achieving closer economic integration in East Asia and South-East Asia.

“The RCEP sends out the message that Asian countries are not willing to blindly follow the US and exclude China from the region’s integration process. A sound and healthy economic community in Asia cannot be achieved without China’s participation.”

For China, the RCEP is the first multilateral free trade agreement it has ever participated in. China already has bilateral trade deals with many RCEP members, and it has been trying to seal an obstacle-filled trilateral pact with Japan and South Korea.

For Malaysia, the cheer is that the RCEP will provide greater access to regional markets and more opportunities for local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to expand into foreign markets, said Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

The lowering of barriers and streamlining of rules in trade facilitation will boost Malaysia’s trade with RCEP countries and attract foreign firms keen on entering into a more integrated Asean, said the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM).

“This will enhance transparency in trade and investment, as well as facilitate the greater inclusion of Asean’s SMEs in global and regional supply chains,” said ACCCIM president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap in a statement.

Wanita MCA national chairperson Datuk Heng Seai Kie said the RCEP provides “new hope for Malaysian entrepreneurs and national economic recovery to counter the current pandemic”.

“The RCEP trade deal will help stimulate the economy by integrating the various participating nations in the Asia-Pacific while introducing lowered tariffs, standardised customs rules and procedures and widened market access, especially among countries that don’t have trade deals,” she said in a statement.

Describing the free trade agreement as “an incredibly important agreement in terms of the timing”, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said: “This agreement signifies that our region is still committed to openness and to trade and that we will use that as a platform and a springboard for recovery in the post-Covid era… Better access for our farmers and businesses means more jobs for Australians overall.”

Birmingham noted that Australian businesses in education, healthcare, accountancy, engineering and legal service industries would benefit most from the deal, which will allow them to open offices in RCEP countries.

Most importantly, the trade pact may facilitate Australia’s exports to China – its largest trading partner – if Australia tones down its two-year long hostility towards Beijing. Canberra’s ongoing spat with Beijing has hurt Australia’s economy deeply.

For Japanese exporters, the agreement means that China and South Korea will gradually eliminate tariffs on sake and shochu, according to Japan Times. The reduction from China’s current 40% tariff on both will fall to zero after 21 years, and South Korea’s 15% tariff on both goods now will be eliminated after 15 years.

The RCEP may help reduce the adverse impact of trade wars waged on any member country in the deal, according to prominent YouTuber Yang Fong.

“Once the RCEP comes into force in two years, the US cannot simply wage trade wars on China and other members. The deal will also bring major changes to supply-chains in China and the region,” said the economic analyst.

While all member nations are excited about RCEP, India left the negotiation table last year.

In November 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the pact would not benefit India’s core interest. Indian dairy farmers, as well as SMEs, are worried of losing out to China in the trade of manufactured goods, and to Australia and New Zealand on dairy products.

But despite this, the RCEP welcomes the return of India once it is ready to join.

To the Western world, the concern is that the world’s largest trade deal has left out the United States.

“Notably, the agreement excludes the US and can potentially allow China to cement its position as a key trade partner for South-East Asia and other countries,” CNBC said in its report.

The US Chamber of Commerce in Washington has expressed concern that the US is being left behind in the world’s largest free-trade bloc, reported Reuters.

However, the absence of US in the RECP could be easily explained. The world’s biggest economy was never a part of the trade pact from the very beginning.

The RCEP’s formation in 2012 is seen as an Asean response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a US-led free trade agreement that excluded China – the world’s second largest economy and largest trading partner for most Asian countries.

At the beginning, TPP membership included the United States, Malaysia and several Asean countries, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

While setting up the RCEP, Asean invited China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to be partners in this free trade agreement.

For countries like Malaysia that believe in multi-lateralism, they can gain tremendously from having membership in both US-led TPP and Asean-led RCEP.

However, when Donald Trump became president, he rejected multilateralism and the Trump administration withdrew from the TPP in 2016.

Trump’s “America First” policy and the trade wars he has waged against China and others have also raised doubts about the US’ willingness to trade with Asian countries on mutually beneficial basis.

Without US participation, the West is worried that China will dominate RCEP and expand its influence in the region.

China’s state-linked Global Times is prompt to supply answers and address the concern.

Noting that major US allies (such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan) are part of the RCEP, Global Times said: “China cannot dominate the attitude of these countries or Asean as many major US allies are in the deal.”

In fact, Japan and Australia – which have enjoyed very close ties with the US – are likely to keep a close eye on China in the RCEP, while championing their own interests in the deal.

Global Times added: “If China is the so-called winner this time, then it is a win-win situation for all other RCEP members because these countries have strived for their own benefits during the past eight years of negotiations. All countries can only be winners since they have signed this agreement.”

Analysis by HO WAH FOON 


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Monday, November 23, 2020

Registered childcare centres can stay open during the conditional movement control order (CMCO)


Children being looked after at a nursery in Komtar. — Filepic

REGISTERED childcare centres and nurseries caring for the children of frontliners and working parents are allowed to operate during the conditional movement control order (MCO) period.

However, the childcare centres and nurseries need to adhere fully to the standard operating procedure.

Penang welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the requirements included ensuring that the centres were registered with the state Welfare Department.

“The centres need to obtain permission from the state Welfare Department director and submit verification letters from the employers of the parents or guardians confirming that the affected parent or guardian needs to work.

“They also need to adhere to the SOP for taska safety and the social care sector as directed by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Phee added that unregistered childcare centres and nurseries looking to obtain permission to operate would not be considered.

“This is in line with the operating permission for childcare centres and nurseries during the conditional MCO period under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).

“Childcare centres under technical agencies including state authorities, the Fire and Rescue Department as well as the Health Department need to fulfill requirements under these agencies for licences to be issued.

“Then the centres can put forward their applications to the Welfare Department for registration.

“Under the district Welfare Department office, all completed and submitted applications will be processed within 48 hours.”

For more details or a list of the registered childcare centres, the public may visit

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Not all golf clubs adhere to buggy policy 

Michelle Wie Powerful Set-Up and Swing

 Michelle Wie practicing at the Ko Oina Golf Club. This is before she began to have her problems off the tee. Notice the smooth but powerful transition and follow through. She started to jump at the ball for awhile, but now is back to a real good move. Notice BJ Wie, her ever-present father...

Golf has been fortunate enough to continue in the Covid climate.

The one-buggy one-player recommendation not enforced everywhere

AS the Covid-19 pandemic continues to afflict golf clubs across the length and breadth of the nation, one or two have resorted to giving the buggies recommendation a miss.

Almost all the local clubs have embraced the one-buggy oneplayer policy set in the guidelines of the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA). However, a quick check by TeeUp has revealed that there was one or two who chose not to follow suit and have opted to continue as before (the pandemic).

It is understood that the MGA “guidelines” are recommendations and the clubs are not bound by law to carry them out, unless they are those incorporated from the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the health authorities.

Not surprisingly, the said clubs contacted for comment on the matter declined to offer any response.

It must be mentioned also that at one of the clubs (where twoper-buggy is still practiced), the players must be husband and wife, or from the same family and/ or the same Covid bubble.

All the other leading clubs in the Klang Valley that TeeUp spoke to about the buggy policy said they had initiated the MGA’s guidelines in full.

Speaking to TeeUp in an earlier interview, MGA president Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor (R) said they would issue updates as when these became applicable and added that they too were being guided by the Health Ministry.

“These SOPs and guidelines have been put in place to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and we will continue to work with the health authorities in their efforts to flatten the curve,” he said.

“It is our sincere hope that the golf clubs and other industry stakeholders will join forces and adhere to the SOPs without exception. This is most important in the fight to curb the spread of this virus.”

Mohd Anwar added that the national association’s annual general meeting, which was scheduled for last month, will be held at a date to be determined when “all is safe to do so.

“We had no option but to postpone the annual general meeting because of Covid-19. The safety and well-being of our members and all others in the related fields of golf, is our priority and we will not detour from this approach,” added Mohd Anwar.

“Once things improve and we get the nod from the health authorities, we will host the annual meeting – but not before then.”

At this year’s annual general meeting (if indeed it does go ahead) there will be no elections for the top positions within the organisation, given that they are in the middle of their terms.

The Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM) were also expected to have staged their annual meeting by now, but failed to do so because of the pandemic. And they are, likewise, waiting to set a new date when the circumstances allow them to.

Golf is one of the few sports that has been fortunate enough to continue in the present Covid climate, but with strict standard operating procedures set down by the Health Ministry. Among these are:

Pre-Game SOPs

  • > Golfers with any colds or coughs or any symptoms of Covid 19 shall be prohibited from entering the golf club.
  • > Bookings shall be made in advance.
  • > Enforce one golfer per buggy.
  • > Golf competitions suspended until further notice.
  • > Use MySejahtera to record golfers and employees entry to the golf club.
  • > Accept only online payment or bank transfer. Registration counter shall not accept any cash payment.
  • > Golfers shall register 20 minutes before tee time. Registration staff to be equipped with face masks/gloves. Hand sanitiser readily available at registration counter and disposable pencils made available.
  • > Temperature check for each golfer before entering the golf club and to sanitise their hands by security guard.
  • > One golfer to register for each flight.
  • > Social distancing markers to be clearly outlined at the registration counter.
  • > Interaction shall be limited between golfers and staff.
  • > Each golfer to complete and submit a Health/ Travel Declaration form prior registration.

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

RCEP to boost our property market

RCEP will promote and facilitate international trade among the 15 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the expected increase in free trade will have a significant impact on the Malaysian property market. -NST/file pic.

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signifies the world's largest trade agreement and will contribute towards sustaining Malaysia as a preferred trading hub and investment destination.

RCEP will promote and facilitate international trade among the 15 participating countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the expected increase in free trade will have a significant impact on the Malaysian property market.

Higher trade and economic activities will impact on the occupation, investment and development sectors of the property market. Real estate space is a local input in the production and supply of goods and services. Increased exports lead to the expansion of domestic production.

Increased domestic production increases the demand for industrial space. Imports also have an impact on demand for real estate space. Goods imported need to be stored and distributed through warehouses and logistic properties.

These goods are then displayed and marketed at various outlets points thereby increasing the demand for retail spaces in retail malls.

Regional trading bloc and trade liberalisation will encourage foreign direct investments (FDI). These FDIs will create demand for industrial land and buildings. New capital investments will spur demand for more financing activities from the banks.

Once the plants and machines are in operations, it will create employment and demand on other factors of production. Higher economic growth will drive the capital market which will attract more foreign investment fund flows investing into local equities.

With increased economic activities, occupation demand for real estate space will cause rental increase. With inelastic new supply, potential future rental growth and prospective capital appreciation, investors will start to invest in real estate leading to an active investment market with the more participation from the institutional investors.

Developers will react to prevailing rents and capital values when they appear to signal a profitable opportunity. If prices rise, more developers will respond to these signals, the aggregate flow of supply into the market increases.

These new spaces will meet the requirements of the occupiers and investors e.g. floor plate size, specification and network connectivity requirements

Real estate service providers such as property consultants played an important role in the whole process by aligning their service standards to the requirements of the regional and global clients.

It is envisioned that the RCEP will open up markets and help in the recovery post Covid-19 pandemic. With increased economic activities, it will give rise to more derived demand for various real estate spaces thereby leading to an improved property market performance in the future.


Professor of Property Investment

Centre of Real Estate Studies

Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying

Universiti Teknologi MARA

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

RCEP puts Malaysia on par with super economies

Azmin showing the RCEP agreement document during the signing ceremony witnessed by Muhyiddin on Nov 15. – fotoBERNAMA\

 ON behalf of the Government of Malaysia, I signed the historic Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement together with 14 other RCEP participating countries (RPCs).

Being an integral part of the week-long 37th Asean Summit, led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the signing of the RCEP agreement represents the high point of the summit which was convened virtually in its entirety.

Witnessing this momentous occasion, the prime minister said that the signing signifies to the world that Asean, with its five Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners, places utmost priority on regional economic integration that facilitates cross-border trade, investments and the easing of non-tariff measures.

The signing is the culmination of eight years of arduous and protracted negotiations involving 31 rounds of negotiations, eight ministerial meetings and four summits.

Undoubtedly, it represents a significant and imperative milestone in the integration and revitalisation of economies of the 15 parties.

Further, this will also be a testament to the strengthening of the multilateral trading system as well as upholding the development agenda in the WTO.

Being the largest FTA in the world, covering 15 countries with 2.2 billion people or nearly a third (29.7%) of the world’s population, RCEP represents US$24.8bil or almost a third (28.9%) of the world’s GDP based on World Bank’s 2018 data.

With different economic development levels of all parties, RCEP will contribute to sustaining Malaysia as a preferred trading hub and investment destination.

To Malaysian businesses, it will mean tariff elimination and reduction for merchandise goods, including the facilitation of export and import of goods among the RCEP countries.

Service providers including e-commerce will be able to enjoy greater market access in terms of cross-border supply and establishing commercial presence in the RCEP markets.

In addition, RCEP will promote, facilitate and protect the investment climate of participating countries within the region. This also includes information exchange and promotion of transparency measures to facilitate business and investment within the RCEP area.

Realising that SMEs play a pivotal role to the backbone of every economies, RCEP could provide a level playing field between developed and least developed countries.

There is a specific chapter on SMEs providing provisions for information exchange and promotion of transparency measures to facilitate business and investment within the region, including providing economic and technical cooperation especially to SMEs.

RCEP can be an economic recovery tool against Covid-19 which will help to ensure opening of markets as well as uninterrupted supply chain.

The RCEP amalgamates and streamlines the existing Asean Plus One FTAs involving Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and New Zealand into an inclusive and comprehensive agreement that will enhance inter and intra-regional trade and investment, strengthen regional value chains, as well as facilitate transparency, information sharing and harmonisation of technical regulations and standards.

RCEP reflects our strong commitment for international trade, connectivity, rules-based multilateral trading system and enhancing free flow of trade and investment.

Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali Senior Minister Minister of International Trade and Industry

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