November 16, 2020 10:17
President Moon Jae-in and the leaders of 14 other countries on Sunday signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a mega free-trade agreement led by China.
The other countries are Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN nations, creating the world's largest trading bloc with a combined GDP of about US$26 trillion, trade volume of $5 trillion and population of some 2.3 billion. It includes about one-third of global economic activity.
Once the RCEP is in force, tariffs will be slashed significantly though Korea already has individual FTAs with most RCEP member countries except Japan.
Moon called the signing at a virtual event a "historical moment" and said that this "mega economic community" will help restore the global multilateralism and free-trade world order.
China has been building the RCEP since 2012 to counter the Trans-Pacific Partnership the U.S. pushed for. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China will cooperate with the participating countries to make sure RCEP succeeds.
Korea did not take part in the TPP, while the U.S. withdrew from it after President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Then the TTP was revised to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnerships involving 11 American, Asian and Pacific countries.
Now Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam are part of both the CPTPP and RCEP.
It remains to be seen whether U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will revive the TPP and ask Korea to join it as well.
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