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In brief

On April 28, 2021, the House of Councilors of Japan approved the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), nearly completing the ratification process that began with RCEP’s approval by the lower house of the Diet on April 15. Japan is expected to formally deposit its ratification instrument with the ASEAN Secretariat after a few remaining internal procedures.

The RCEP, signed on November 15, 2020, is the largest regional free trade agreement (FTA) outside the WTO. Its 15 member states account for approximately 30% of the world’s gross domestic product (USD 26.3 trillion) and 30% of the world’s population (2.3 billion)1. It will enter into force for signatory States that have deposited their ratification instruments 60 days after the date as of which at least six signatory ASEAN member states and three signatory non-ASEAN member states have deposited their ratification instruments with the Depositary of the ASEAN Secretary-General (Article 20.6.2). As of today, Singapore (deposited April 9), China (deposited April 15) and Thailand (parliamentary ratification process completed February 9) have completed their ratification processes. Depending on the ratification schedules of other states, the RCEP may enter into force as early as this year.

In the meantime, businesses are encouraged to strategically analyze the RCEP and consider and take advantage of any new opportunities it offers in the form of new preferential markets, cost savings and/or supply chain optimization.

1 For overview of the RCEP, please see our client alert on December 2.


Junko Suetomi is a partner in Baker McKenzie Tokyo. Prior to joining the Firm, she worked in the WTO Dispute Settlement Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Economic Bureau. She has also worked for a global law firm in Washington, DC and New York, and served as a court-appointed defense attorney in many criminal cases. Junko is recognized as a leading lawyer by Chambers Global and Chambers Asia Pacific, Best Lawyers, Who's Who Legal and other legal directories. She is the Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Tokyo Bar Association and a part-time lecturer at Waseda University. She was a legal advisor to the Ministry of Finance Japan's Office of Trade Remedy Affairs, Tariff Policy and Legal Division, Customs and Tariff Bureau from 2016 to 2019. She has served as an expert member of the Ministry's Council on Customs, Tariff, Foreign Exchange and Other Transactions since 13 March 2019.


Izumi Matsumoto is a member of the Corporate/M&A practice groups in the Firm’s Tokyo office. Prior to joining the Firm, he worked at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry from 2007 to 2020. There, he was mainly engaged in the Japan-EU EPA negotiation, the Japan-US-EU trilateral subsidies agreement negotiation, several WTO dispute settlement cases, and the Brexit issue.


Mami Ohara is a member of the Firm's Corporate and Mergers & Acquisitions Practice Group. She advises Japanese and international companies on global and domestic corporate reorganizations, cross-border compliance, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and corporate governance matters. Mami practiced in the Firm's Chicago and London offices for three years before returning to the Firm’s Tokyo Office in 2016.


Takumi Hasegawa is a member of the Dispute Resolution Practice Group in the Firm's Tokyo office. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, he worked for a maritime law firm with an emphasis on litigation and arbitration cases.

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