Leaders from 15 Asia-Pacific nations on Sunday sealed one of the biggest trade deals in history, seeking to reduce barriers in an area covering a third of the world’s population and economic output, reported the Financial Times.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, marks a major step forward for economic integration in the region, and follows almost a decade of negotiations. Economists said the deal could add almost $200 billion annually to the global economy by 2030.
The RCEP takes most of the existing agreements signed by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and combines them into a single multilateral pact with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
By combining a mishmash of separate arrangements into a single deal, RCEP brings Asia a step closer to becoming a coherent trading zone like the EU or North America, said the FT. China’s premier Li Keqiang described the agreement as “a victory of multilateralism and free trade”, according to a report from the official Xinhua news agency.