China, 14 other Asian nations sign regional trade deal

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Leaders of China, Japan, and 13 other countries in the region signed a trade agreement on Sunday, a move that draws the region’s economies closer together and sets a new obstacle against U.S. influence in the region.

The New York Times reported that the deal includes the nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Dubbed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the agreement covers more people than any singular regional trade agreement in history, as there are more than 2.2 billion people living in the member states.

A spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry addressed the signing at a news briefing Thursday, according to the Times, stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government did not join the pact because it “does not address the outstanding issues and concerns of India.”

It follows the 2018 signing of the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an evolution of the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2017 that includes nearly a dozen Pacific countries.

China’s premier, Li Keqiang, celebrated the signing Sunday in a message obtained by state media, calling the agreement “a victory of multilateralism and free trade.”

The Trump administration announced Friday that Robert O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, would lead a delegation to speak with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose members signed the RCEP, about the China-backed deal among other issues at a virtual summit this weekend.

Tags Australia China New Zealand RCEP Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Robert O'Brien

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