Asia forms world’s biggest trade bloc, a China-backed group excluding U.S

Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies formed the world’s largest free trade bloc on Sunday, a China-backed deal that excludes the United States, which had left a rival Asia-Pacific grouping under President Donald Trump.

It includes the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The members make up nearly a third of the world’s population and account for 29% of global gross domestic product.

The new free trade zone will be bigger than both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union.

India was also part of the negotiations, but pulled out last year, over concerns that lower tariffs could hurt local producers.

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 U.S. president Barack Obama, which his successor Trump exited in 2017.

Although the RCEP was an Asean initiative, it is regarded by many as a China-backed alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed deal that excluded China but included many Asian countries.

 

Twelve member states signed the TPP in 2016 before the the US President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2017.