RCEP Explained: Visualizing the World’s Biggest Trading Bloc
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RCEP Explained: The World’s Biggest Trading Bloc Will Soon be in Asia-Pacific

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RCEP Explained -The World’s Biggest Trading Bloc Will Soon be in Asia-Pacific

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RCEP Explained: The World’s Biggest Trading Bloc

Trade and commerce are the lifeblood of the global economy. Naturally, agreements among nations in a certain geographical area help facilitate relationships in ways that are ideally beneficial for everyone involved.

In late 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed, officially creating the biggest trade bloc in history. Here, we break down everything you need to know about it, from who’s involved to its implications.

Who’s in the RCEP, and Why Was it Created?

The RCEP is a free trade agreement between 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region, and has been formalized after 28 rounds of discussion over eight years.

Member nations who are a part of the RCEP will benefit from lowered or completely eliminated tariffs on imported goods and services within the region in the next 20 years. Here are the countries which have signed on to be member nations:

CountryPopulation (M)Nominal GDP ($B)
🇦🇺 Australia25.7$1,359
🇧🇳 Brunei0.5$12
🇰🇭 Cambodia15.7$26
🇨🇳 China1404$14,723
🇮🇩 Indonesia270.2$1,060
🇯🇵 Japan125.8$5,049
🇰🇷 South Korea51.8$1,631
🇱🇦 Laos7.3$19
🇲🇾 Malaysia32.9$338
🇲🇲 Myanmar53.2$81
🇳🇿 New Zealand5.1$209
🇵🇭 Philippines108.8$362
🇸🇬 Singapore5.8$340
🇹🇭 Thailand69.8$502
🇻🇳 Vietnam97.4$341
RCEP Total2,274.2M$26,052B

Source: IMF

But there is still some work to do to bring the trade agreement into full effect.

Signing the agreement, the step taken in late 2020, is simply an initial show of support for the trade agreement, but now it needs to be ratified. That means these nations still have to give their consent to be legally bound to the terms within the RCEP. Once the RCEP is ratified by three-fifths of its signatories—a minimum of six ASEAN nations and three non-ASEAN nations—it will go ahead within 60 days.

So far, it’s been ratified by China, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore as of April 30, 2021. At its current pace, the RCEP is set to come into effect in early 2022 as all member nations have agreed to complete the ratification process within the year.

Interestingly, in the midst of negotiations in 2019, India pulled out of the agreement. This came after potential concerns about the trade bloc’s impacts on its industrial and agricultural sectors that affect the “lives and livelihoods of all Indians”. India retains the option to rejoin the RCEP in the future, if things change.

The Biggest Trading Blocs, Compared

When we say the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is the biggest trade bloc in history, this statement is not hyperbole.

The RCEP will not only surpass existing Asia-Pacific trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in size and scope, but also other key regional partnerships in advanced economies.

This includes the European Union and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly known as NAFTA). How does the trio stack up?

 Nominal GDP, 2020Population, 2020
EU$15.2 trillion445 million
USMCA$23.7 trillion496 million
RCEP$26.1 trillion2.27 billion
World$84.5 trillion7.64 billion

With the combined might of its 15 signatories, the RCEP accounts for approximately 30% of global GDP and population. Interestingly, the total population covered within the RCEP is near or over five times that of the other trade blocs.

Another regional agreement not covered here is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is now the largest in terms of participating countries (55 in total), but in the other metrics, the RCEP still emerges superior.

Implications of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

The potential effects of the RCEP are widespread. Among others, the agreement will establish rules for the region around:

  • Investment
  • Competition
  • E-commerce
  • Intellectual property
  • Telecommunications

However, there are some key exclusions that have raised critics’ eyebrows. These are:

  • Labor union provisions
  • Environmental protection
  • Government subsidies

The RCEP could also help China gain even more ground in its economic race against the U.S. towards becoming a global superpower.

Last, but most importantly, Brookings estimates that the potential gains from the RCEP are in the high billions: $209 billion could be added annually to world incomes, and $500 billion may be added to world trade by 2030.

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Comparing the Speed of U.S. Interest Rate Hikes (1988-2022)

The effective federal funds rate has risen more than two percentage points in six months. How does this compare to other interest rate hikes?

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Line chart comparing the speed of interest rate hikes over cycles since 1988. The 2022 cycle is the fastest with the effective federal funds rate rising 2.36 percentage points in six months.

Comparing the Speed of U.S. Interest Rate Hikes

As U.S. inflation remains at multi-decade highs, the Federal Reserve has been aggressive with its interest rate hikes. In fact, rates have risen more than two percentage points in just six months.

In this graphic—which was inspired by a chart from Chartr—we compare the speed and severity of the current interest rate hikes to other periods of monetary tightening over the past 35 years.

Measuring Periods of Interest Rate Hikes

We used the effective federal funds rate (EFFR), which measures the weighted average of the rates that banks use to lend to each other overnight. It is determined by the market but influenced by the Fed’s target range. We considered the starting point for each cycle to be the EFFR during the month when the first rate hike took place.

Here is the duration and severity of each interest rate hike cycle since 1988.

Time PeriodDuration 
(Months)
Total Change in EFFR
(Percentage Points)
Mar 1988 - May 198914 3.23
Feb 1994 - Feb 1995122.67
Jun 1999 - May 2000111.51
Jun 2004 - Jun 2006243.96
Dec 2015 - Dec 2018362.03
Mar 2022 - Sep 2022 62.36

* We considered a rate hike cycle to be any time period when the Federal Reserve raised rates at two or more consecutive meetings. The 2022 rate hike cycle is ongoing with data as of September 2022.

The 2022 rate hike cycle is the fastest, reaching a 2.36 percentage point increase nearly twice as fast as the rate hike cycle of ‘88-‘89.

On the other hand, the most severe interest rate hikes occurred in the ‘04 – ‘06 cycle when the EFFR climbed by almost four percentage points. It took much longer to reach this level, however, with the hikes taking place over two years.

Timing Interest Rate Hikes

Why are 2022’s interest rate hikes so rapid? U.S. inflation far exceeds the Fed’s long-term target of 2%. In fact, when the hikes started in March 2022, inflation was the highest it’s ever been in the last six rate hike cycles.

Time PeriodInflation Rate at Start of Cycle
Mar 1988 - May 19893.60%
Feb 1994 - Feb 19952.06%
Jun 1999 - May 20001.40%
Jun 2004 - Jun 20062.89%
Dec 2015 - Dec 20180.30%
Mar 2022 - Sep 2022 6.77%

Inflation rate is the year-over-year change as measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Index.

In contrast, three of the rate hike cycles started with inflation at or below the 2% target. Inflation was just 0.30% in December 2015 when the Fed announced its first rate hike since the global financial crisis.

Some criticized the Fed for raising rates prematurely, but the Fed’s rationale was that it can take up to three years or more for policy actions to affect economic conditions. By raising rates early and gradually, the Fed hoped to avoid surging inflation in the future.

Fast forward to today, and the picture couldn’t look more different. Inflation exceeded the 2% target for 12 months before the Fed began to raise rates. Initially, the Fed believed inflation was “transitory” or short-lived. Now, inflation is a top financial concern and there is a risk that it has gathered enough momentum that it will be difficult to bring down.

Balancing Inflation and Recession Risks

The Fed expects to raise its target rate to around 4.4% by the end of 2022, up from the current range of 3-3.25%. However, they don’t foresee inflation reaching their 2% target until 2025.

In the meantime, the rapid interest rate hikes could lead to an economic downturn. Risks of a global recession have increased as other central banks raise their rates too. The World Bank offers policymakers a number of suggestions to help avoid a recession:

  • Central banks can communicate policy decisions clearly to secure inflation expectations and, hopefully, reduce how much they need to raise rates.
  • Governments can carefully withdraw fiscal support, develop medium-term spending and tax policies, and provide targeted help to vulnerable households.
  • Other economic policymakers can help relieve supply pressures through various measures. For instance, they can introduce policies to increase labor force participation, enhance global trade networks, and bring in measures to reduce energy consumption.

Will policymakers heed this advice and, if so, will it prove sufficient to avoid a global recession?

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Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion

Our population will soon reach a new milestone—8 billion. These visualizations show where all those people are distributed around the world

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Visualized: The World’s Population at 8 Billion

At some point in late 2022, the eight billionth human being will enter the world, ushering in a new milestone for humanity.

In just 48 years, the world population has doubled in size, jumping from four to eight billion. Of course, humans are not equally spread throughout the planet, and countries take all shapes and sizes. The visualizations in this article aim to build context on how the eight billion people are distributed around the world.

For extended coverage of this moment and what it means to the world, you can get access to our full report and webinar by signing up to VC+, our premium newsletter.

Now, here’s a look at each country’s population as of September 2022:

Global RankCountry/RegionPopulation (2022)
1🇨🇳 China1,451,832,064
2🇮🇳 India1,410,982,243
3🇺🇸 United States335,391,957
4🇮🇩 Indonesia280,139,383
5🇵🇰 Pakistan230,918,073
6🇳🇬 Nigeria218,243,241
7🇧🇷 Brazil215,986,577
8🇧🇩 Bangladesh168,436,792
9🇷🇺 Russia146,074,130
10🇲🇽 Mexico132,030,739
11Japan125,619,457
12Ethiopia121,709,461
13Philippines112,939,493
14Egypt106,839,825
15Vietnam98,311,965
16Democratic Republic of Congo96,104,525
17Iran86,465,398
16Turkey86,415,852
19Germany84,385,892
20Thailand70,192,866
21United Kingdom68,691,253
22France65,597,276
23Tanzania63,802,882
24South Africa61,027,608
25Italy60,264,287
26Kenya56,557,929
27Myanmar55,236,333
28Colombia52,123,686
29South Korea51,367,770
30Uganda49,222,889
31Spain46,795,195
32Sudan46,265,964
33Argentina46,141,195
34Algeria45,695,757
35Ukraine43,156,242
36Iraq42,348,230
37Afghanistan40,993,541
38Canada38,495,773
39Morocco37,914,397
40Poland37,754,428
41Saudi Arabia36,069,266
42Angola35,327,540
43Uzbekistan34,589,376
44Peru34,031,086
45Mozambique33,346,961
46Malaysia33,319,730
47Ghana32,594,574
48Yemen31,371,445
49Nepal30,357,476
50Madagascar29,381,411
51Venezuela28,257,503
52Cameroon28,111,718
53Cote d'Ivoire27,925,649
54Niger26,344,186
55Australia26,178,342
56North Korea26,033,387
57Taiwan23,913,311
58Burkina Faso22,270,251
59Mali21,646,251
60Sri Lanka21,615,470
61Malawi20,304,147
62Chile19,489,734
63Zambia19,613,655
64Kazakhstan19,292,183
65Romania18,956,053
66Guatemala18,688,479
67Syria18,506,569
68Ecuador18,262,799
69Senegal17,793,385
70Chad17,553,601
71Cambodia17,252,457
72Netherlands17,219,859
73Somalia16,951,984
74Zimbabwe15,362,663
75Guinea13,981,705
76Rwanda13,712,855
77Benin12,878,142
78Burundi12,740,471
79Tunisia12,101,418
80Bolivia12,039,974
81Haiti11,721,737
82Belgium11,703,272
83South Sudan11,494,756
84Cuba11,311,223
85Dominican Republic11,096,411
86Czechia10,753,478
87Jordan10,434,463
88Azerbaijan10,347,430
89Greece10,310,847
90Honduras10,269,662
91Sweden10,241,804
92United Arab Emirates10,164,747
93Portugal10,130,876
94Hungary9,605,987
95Tajikistan10,042,202
96Belarus9,442,398
97Papua New Guinea9,342,727
98Austria9,122,566
99Israel8,969,013
100Switzerland8,798,256
101Togo8,737,152
102Serbia8,659,648
103Sierra Leone8,357,040
104Hong Kong SAR7,635,279
105Laos7,519,384
106Paraguay7,333,782
107Libya7,086,602
108Bulgaria6,833,885
109Nicaragua6,805,420
110Kyrgyzstan6,774,001
111Lebanon6,758,016
112El Salvador6,560,071
113Turkmenistan6,236,038
114Singapore5,954,898
115Congo5,839,721
116Denmark5,838,070
117Finland5,559,984
118Norway5,517,561
119Slovakia5,465,545
120Oman5,414,812
121Palestine5,381,277
122Liberia5,338,398
123Costa Rica5,200,150
124Ireland5,064,136
125Central African Republic5,025,077
126Mauritania4,940,298
127New Zealand4,911,293
128Panama4,472,108
129Kuwait4,416,533
130Croatia4,049,640
131Moldova4,013,174
132Georgia3,972,171
133Eritrea3,659,593
134Uruguay3,500,798
135Mongolia3,400,693
136Bosnia and Herzegovina3,235,985
137Armenia2,975,648
138Qatar2,994,073
139Jamaica2,990,290
140Albania2,870,809
141Puerto Rico2,704,519
142Namibia2,648,122
143Lithuania2,640,339
144Gambia2,578,866
145Botswana2,462,832
146Gabon2,349,783
147Lesotho2,180,846
148North Macedonia2,083,183
149Slovenia2,079,575
150Guinea-Bissau2,077,878
151Bahrain1,845,321
152Latvia1,840,901
153Equatorial Guinea1,514,454
154Trinidad and Tobago1,409,672
155Timor1,377,091
156Estonia1,328,527
157Mauritius1,276,493
158Cyprus1,227,303
159Eswatini1,187,627
160Djibouti1,021,185
161Comoros913,105
162Fiji911,185
163Réunion909,806
164Guyana795,114
165Bhutan791,064
166Solomon Islands726,764
167Macao SAR669,734
168Luxembourg649,600
169Montenegro628,243
170Western Sahara632,115
171Suriname598,608
172Cape Verde569,810
173Micronesia (Fed. States of)561,300
174Maldives561,291
175Brunei447,038
176Malta444,182
177Belize414,449
178Bahamas401,818
179Guadeloupe400,277
180Martinique374,617
181Iceland346,259
182Vanuatu324,088
183French Guiana317,076
184New Caledonia291,762
185Mayotte288,384
186Barbados288,162
187French Polynesia284,580
188Sao Tome and Principe228,652
189Samoa201,401
190Saint Lucia185,519
191Channel Islands177,517
192Guam172,146
193Curaçao165,604
194Kiribati123,690
195Grenada113,966
196Saint Vincent and the Grenadines111,732
197Tonga108,440
198Aruba107,787
199United States Virgin Islands104,083
200Antigua and Barbuda99,773
201Seychelles99,725
202Isle of Man86,049
203Andorra77,542
204Dominica72,387
205Cayman Islands67,492
206Bermuda61,769
207Marshall Islands60,095
208Northern Mariana Islands58,336
209Greenland56,991
210American Samoa54,920
211Saint Kitts and Nevis54,052
212Faeroe Islands49,281
213Sint Maarten43,991
214Turks and Caicos39,924
215Monaco39,873
216Saint Martin40,198
217Liechtenstein38,374
218San Marino34,091
219Gibraltar33,669
220British Virgin Islands30,687
221Caribbean Netherlands26,779
222Palau18,288
223Cook Islands17,600
224Anguilla15,308
225Tuvalu12,126
226Nauru10,978
227Wallis and Futuna10,818
228Saint Barthelemy9,945
229Saint Helena6,118
230Saint Pierre & Miquelon5,732
231Montserrat4,999
232Falkland Islands3,723
233Niue1,651
234Tokelau1,396
235Holy See806

Below are regional breakdowns of population.

Africa’s Population by Country

As of 2022, Africa’s total population stands at 1.4 billion people. Many of the countries with the fastest growth rates are located in Africa and by 2050, the population of the continent is expected to jump to 2.5 billion.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of African countries in 2022

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy. Based on current growth rates, Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, could even emerge as the world’s top megacity by the end of the century.

Africa has by far the lowest median age of any of the other continents.

Asia’s Population by Country

With 4.7 billion people in 2022, Asia is by far the world’s most populous region.

The continent is dominated by the two massive population centers of China and India. In 2023, a big shift will occur, with India surpassing China to become the world’s most populous country. China has held top spot for centuries, but the mismatch between the two countries’ growth rates made it only a matter of time before this milestone arrived.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of Asian countries in 2022

Asia is a region of contrast when it comes to population growth. On the one end are countries like Singapore and Japan, which are actually shrinking. On the other, are Middle Eastern nations like Oman and Qatar, which have robust population growth rates of 4-5%.

Vietnam is on the cusp of becoming the 15th country to surpass the 100 million population mark.

Europe’s Population by Country

Europe’s population in 2022 is 750 million people—more than twice the size of the United States.

A century ago, Europe’s population was close to 30% of the world total. Today, that figure stands at less than 10%. This is, in part, due to population growth throughout other regions of the world.

More importantly though, Europe’s population is contracting in a number of places—Eastern Europe in particular. Many of the countries with the slowest growth rates are located in the Balkans and former Soviet Bloc countries.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of European countries in 2022

Russia remains Europe’s largest country by population. Although the country’s landmass extends all the way across Asia, three-quarters of Russia’s people live on the European side of the country.

Germany is the second largest country in Europe, followed by the UK, France, and Italy.

Ukraine is the seventh largest population center in Europe, but it remains to be seen how the current conflict with Russia impacts the country’s long-term population prospects.

North America’s Population by Country

North America’s population is 602 million people as of 2022.

The continent is dominated by the United States, which makes up more than half of the total population. America’s population is still growing modestly (by global standards), but perhaps more interesting are the internal migration patterns that are occurring. States like Texas and Florida are seeing an influx from other states.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of North American countries in 2022

Canada has one of the highest population growth rates of major developed economies thanks to international migration.

Mexico is currently the 10th most populous country, but will eventually be bumped from the top 10 list by fast-growing African nations.

South America’s Population by Country

The population of South America in 2022 is 439 million. Brazil makes up nearly half of that total.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of South American countries in 2022

Sometime this decade, Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, will become the region’s fifth megacity (which is defined as having a population of 10 million or more). São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Lima are South America’s current megacities.

Oceania’s Population by Country

The population of the Oceania region is 44 million people—just slightly higher than the population of California.

Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea make up the lion’s share of the population of this region.

Data visualization showing a population breakdown of Oceania's countries in 2022

Interestingly, many of the smallest countries by population can also be found in this region.

When Will Earth’s Population Hit 9 Billion?

The next global population milestone—nine billion—will likely be hit sometime in the 2030s.

In fact, Earth’s population is expected to continue growing until it hits a peak at some point in the 2080s—possibly over the 10 billion mark.

world at 8 billion report

Where does this data come from?

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division via Worldometer’s live tracker (as of Sept 27, 2022).

Context: The UN has estimated that November 15th, 2022, will be the date that the world population officially hits 8 billion.

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