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China, Japan, 13 Other Asian Countries Sign Regional Trade Deal

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Leaders of China, Japan, and 13 other countries in the region signed a trade agreement on Sunday, a move that draws the region’s economies closer together and sets a new obstacle against U.S. influence in the region, The Hill reports.

The New York Times reported that the deal includes the nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Coined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the agreement covers more people than any previous singular regional trade agreement in history, as there are more than 2.2 billion people living in the member states involved in the trade deal.

A spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry addressed the signing at a news briefing Thursday, according to the Times, stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government did not join the pact because it “does not address the outstanding issues and concerns of India.”

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This comes after the 2018 signing of the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an evolution of the abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2017 that includes nearly a dozen Pacific countries.

China’s premier, Li Keqiang, Sunday in a message obtained by state media, while celebrating the signing,
called the agreement “a victory of multilateralism and free trade.”

The Trump administration announced Friday that Robert O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, would lead a delegation to speak with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose members signed the RCEP, about the China-backed deal among other issues at a virtual summit this weekend, according to The Hill.

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