Hanoi, (Prensa Latina) The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), the largest free trade agreement on the planet, was signed on Sunday in Vietnam by 15 countries of Asia-Pacific.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sealed the pact: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), plus Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Together, these states account for 30 percent of global gross domestic product and roughly the same proportion of the world’s population.

Their power could have been even greater, but as expected, India refused to sign it at the conclusion this Sunday of the 37th ASEAN Summit hosted by Vietnam.

New Delhi objects that the RCEP does not guarantee a balanced trade and demands greater access to markets for goods and services and the protection of its companies against unfair practices.

The signatory nations, however, consider that the agreement will liberalize world trade and will be a mechanism capable of avoiding the protectionist policies so in use, or temporary conflictive situations, such as the trade conflict between the United States and China.

In fact, the other big absentee in that colossal free trade agreement is the United States, which withdrew from negotiations shortly after Donald Trump took office.

Shortly after the RCEP was sealed, several heads of State and Government of the signatory countries expressed their complacency and stated that it could make a great contribution to the economic recovery of their nations and the whole once the Covid-19 pandemic was defeated.

At the signing ceremony, held virtually, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc assured that the agreement will help accelerate the building of the Asean community and the prosperity of its partners.

The RCEP, he said, will lay the foundation for a new period of comprehensive and long-term cooperation for the benefit of all the signatories.

The treaty is expected to be activated next year or early next year.

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