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BHP chief executive Mike Henry. Image: BHP

BHP has underlined the importance of strengthening bilateral ties following the signing of the world’s biggest trade deal among 15 countries.The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed by ASEAN nations, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea, and serves as a commitment to closer trade and open markets.

Despite mounting tensions between Australia and China, the RCEP, which focusses on building stronger regional and bilateral business partnerships, was signed by both countries.

According to Henry, Australia’s success resides in its ability to export resources and build outward, rather than focussing on autonomy.

He added that the RCEP signing would provide a foundation to enhance relationships between the countries involved.

“The opportunity ahead is to not only implement RCEP effectively but also to build on the momentum created by the agreement,” Henry said.

“This will generate new opportunities for collaboration and to reinvigorate important relationships, including possibly taking the first available opportunity for national leaders to meet face to face to celebrate their accomplishment and forge even closer ties.”

According to Henry, the RCEP will help address problems with tensions in international relations.

“One such challenge we currently face is tension in international relations. This is antithetical to the prosperity of Australia, and indeed the world. It is a trend that is in all of our interests to work to turn around,” he said.

“Australia is positioned to demonstrate to others the importance of investing in relationships and the power of trade. We have demonstrated for decades a firm belief in cooperation and collaboration in our region and beyond.

“The Australian Government’s leadership together with China and other nations to finalise RCEP is such an example.”

Henry said the RCEP signing was also vital during the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, which would “require a collective and collaborative approach on a truly global basis”.

“We must return the world to growth to help improve living standards and do it in a way that is sustainable and benefits all. For us to ‘build back better’, we must ‘build back better, together’,” he said.

Henry added that free markets, open trade and economic development should also be modernised, suggesting that larger ASEAN economies should be given more of a voice due to 30 per cent of the global GDP being derived from RECP nations.

“The larger Asian economies should be afforded a greater seat at the table and in shaping the rules of the game,” he said.

“While we are ultimately reliant on countries acting in good faith, we have to ensure we are doing absolutely everything in our power to secure Australia’s continued prosperity through mutually beneficial trade and co-operation.”