China will use the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to consolidate its hegemony in the Asia-Pacific. This triumph of regionalism in Asia is a sign of a change in the correlation of forces in the international system; Western multilateralism, driven by the United States, remains in crisis and shows no signs of recovery. The centre of world trade is in the RCEP countries with the leadership of the Asian Giant.
The war in Ukraine has made evident the old US-led unipolar world order is dead, and a new one is in the making. Kissinger said, "Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.” There are three ways of understanding the Ukrainian war. One is the recovery of Ukraine by Russia after thirty years of independence to prevent Nato and the US from stepping in.
In the midst of the turbulence caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the world's largest free trade agreement (FTA) was signed. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is made up of 15 countries. The new region represents a third of the world's GDP and population and 29% of world exports.
Within the treaty, the following issues are addressed: trade, investment, financial and digital services, intellectual property and technological cooperation. Likewise, it is limited to a trade treaty and not an economic integration process, with free circulation of factors.
China wins a huge trade agreement that plants it as the new face of multilateralism, in view of the abandonment of it by the United States. International cooperation has taken a new dynamic with China at the forefront with long term regional planning.
The president of the United States launched a direct attack on the multilateral organizations responsible for preserving peace and coexistence among nations and the international economic order. After four years in office, he has weakened the multilateral order without any alternative. International relations are approaching a critical point.
The abandonment and confrontation with multilateral institutions, undertaken by the United States, has weakened the world order. In the face of the most serious economic crisis of capitalism and an unresolved global health crisis, international cooperation has to move forward without the U.S., or even in spite of it.
The critical point for multilateralism is not only the U.S. presidential elections next November. The horizon of Pax Americana multilateralism is about to end. In the face of this crisis, a new era of cooperation and international relations has begun with different structures, new economic forces and the important involvement of China with other emerging economies.