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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is a 15-nation trade agreement covering China, Japan, South Korea, the 10 members of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), Australia, and New Zealand.

RCEP covers trade in goods and services, e-commerce, and protection of
intellectual property.

The trade agreement eliminates tariffs and quotas on over 65% of goods traded and replaces a patchwork of regional agreements with common rules of origin and unified regulations.

RCEP’s sheer size makes it significant. Participating economies account for 29 percent of global GDP and about 30 percent of the world’s population.

It is the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in history.

The negotiations, which started in 2012, were led by Iman Pambagyo, director general of Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade, with support provided by the ASEAN Secretariat.

It was signed on November 15, 2020, at the virtual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit meeting hosted by Vietnam.

Once ratified by six ASEAN countries and three non-ASEAN countries, the pact will formally enter into force by as early as the second half of 2021.

Once implemented it will create the largest trade bloc in Asia and is expected to amount to $12.4 trillion in trade.

India, as one of the original negotiating partners that did not sign, will be allowed to join at any time it chooses after ratification.

Other countries will become eligible 18 months later.