Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

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Fifteen countries have formed the world’s largest trading bloc, covering nearly a third of the global economy. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is made up of 10 Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The deal excludes the US. Signatories of the deal said the door remained open for India to join in the future. Negotiations over the RCEP began in 2012. The deal was signed on Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), hosted by Vietnam. “I am delighted to say that after eight years of hard work, as of today, we have officially brought RCEP negotiations to a conclusion for signing,” said Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

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The new free trade bloc will be bigger than both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. Under RCEP, parts from any member nation would be treated equally, which might give companies in RCEP countries an incentive to look within the trade region for suppliers.Leaders hope that the deal will help to spur recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.