One of the largest free trade zones in the world is being built (neue-deutschland.de)

Container ships lie in the night-lit container terminal of the port of Qingdao.

Foto: dpa/SIPA Asia via ZUMA Wire/Yu Fangping

Hanoi. China and 14 other countries from the Asia-Pacific region have signed an important free trade agreement. The Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on Sunday at a video summit of the Southeast Asian community of states (Asean) in Hanoi. In addition to China and the ten Asean states Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the agreement also includes Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

This creates one of the largest free trade zones in the world, comprising more than two billion people and around a third of the world’s economic output.

Negotiations on the agreement began in 2012 at the instigation of China. It was originally intended as a counterweight to the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement TPP, from which the US withdrew after President Donald Trump took office.

After years of “complex” consultations, the negotiations on the RCEP have now officially been concluded, announced the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. The deal is seen as a major success for China, which wants to expand its influence in the region and finds itself in a bitter trade conflict with the US. AFP / nd

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