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Huge Asia trade deal to be inked: Malaysia

Simon Roughneen
·1-min read

Fifteen countries will put pen to paper this weekend on a mammoth and long-awaited Asia-Pacific trade agreement, according to Malaysia's Trade and Industry Minister.

"The signing of the RCEP agreement this Sunday will also demonstrate to the world that ASEAN together with our partners say no to protectionism, and yes to free trade," Azmin Ali said, referring to the free trade deal dubbed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Eight years in the making, RCEP includes Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The deal will "provide momentum for regional trade," according to Nguyen Quoc Dung, Vietnam's deputy foreign minister.

The signing is scheduled to take place during the biannual ASEAN and related summits being chaired by Vietnam.

The meetings - which will run from Thursday to Sunday - will focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU, India, Russia and the US will be represented at some of the talks, which will be held online.

Citing concerns about protecting local industry, India withdrew from RCEP one year ago during ASEAN-led meetings in Bangkok.

Though first proposed by ASEAN in 2012, RCEP was widely-regarded as a Chinese-led rival to the ill-fated US-backed arrangement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Shortly after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the US withdrew from the TPP, which was subsequently diluted and renamed as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership by the eleven remaining signatories, seven of which have ratified the deal.