ASIA FORMS BIGGEST TRADE BLOC UNDER THE AEGIS OF CHINA
Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies formed the world’s largest free trade bloc, a China-backed deal that excludes the United States, which had left a rival Asia-Pacific grouping under President Donald Trump, Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen reported for Reuters.
The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at a regional summit in Hanoi, is a further blow to the group pushed by former US president Barack Obama, which his successor Trump exited in 2017. RCEP groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. It aims in coming years to progressively lower tariffs across many areas.
Amid questions over Washington’s engagement in Asia, RCEP may cement China’s position more firmly as an economic partner with Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea, putting the world’s second-biggest economy in a better position to shape the region’s trade rules.
The United States is absent from both RCEP and the successor to the Obama-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), leaving the world’s biggest economy out of two trade groups that span the fastest-growing region on earth. By contrast, RCEP could help Beijing cut its dependence on overseas markets and technology, a shift accelerated by a deepening rift with Washington, said Iris Pang, ING chief economist for Greater China. “RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery,” said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Vietnam, which hosted the ceremony as ASEAN chair. RCEP will account for 30% of the global economy, 30% of the global population and reach 2.2 billion consumers, Vietnam said.