15 Asia-Pacific nations form largest trade bloc

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Fifteen Asia-Pacific nations have formed the world’s largest trade bloc by signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or R-Cep, during an online ASEAN summit in Hanoi. The R-Cep is composed of 10 ASEAN members as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Vietnam, which hosted the ceremony, says the R-Cep will account for 30-percent of the global economy and reach over 2-billion consumers. The China-backed pact has excluded the U-S which left a rival Asia-Pacific grouping called Trans-Pacific Partnership in 20-17. The R-Cep will take effect once it is ratified domestically by signatory countries within the next two years. The agreement will help lower tariffs across many areas. India pulled out of R-Cep talks in last November, but ASEAN leaders have said the door remains open for New Delhi to join it.

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