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International

China, 14 Asia-Pacific nations ink world’s biggest trade agreement

November 16, 2020 05:34 AM

COURTESY HT NOV 16

China, 14 Asia-Pacific nations ink world’s biggest trade agreement
HTC and Agencies

letters@hindustantimes.com

Hanoi/New Delhi : Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries on Sunday signed the world’s biggest free trade deal, seen as a huge coup for China in extending its influence, in an agreement that India had pulled out of last year over concerns about cheap Chinese goods proliferating the country and harming domestic products.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, with members accounting for around 30% of global GDP.

First proposed in 2012, the deal was finally sealed at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit as leaders pushed to get their pandemic-hit economies back on track.

“Under the current global circumstances, the fact the RCEP has been signed after eight years of negotiations brings a ray of light and hope amid the clouds,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the virtual signing on Sunday. “It clearly shows that multilateralism is the right way, and represents the right direction of the global economy and humanity’s progress,” he said. The agreement to lower tariffs and open up services trade within the bloc does not include the US and is viewed as a Chinese-led alternative to a now-defunct Washington trade initiative. Many of the pact’s signatories are also battling severe coronavirus outbreaks and hoping the RCEP will help mitigate the crippling economic cost

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