Fifteen Asian and Pacific countries have signed the world's biggest free trade deal. It is called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The countries include 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. These countries account for around 30 per cent of the global economy. The idea for the RCEP started in 2012. The governments have been talking to each other since then. China was key in pushing the deal forward to help economies during the coronavirus pandemic. An economics expert said: "COVID-19 has reminded the region of why trade matters and governments are more eager than ever to have positive economic growth."
Leaders of the 15 governments believe the free trade deal will help their countries and the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese Premier said: "The fact the RCEP has been signed after eight years of negotiations brings a ray of light and hope amid the clouds." He added: "It clearly shows that multilateralism is the right way, and represents the right direction of the global economy and humanity's progress." South Korea said: "We believe that the RCEP, being the world's largest free trade arrangement, represents an important step forward toward an ideal framework of global trade and investment." It said the deal included, "a diverse mix of developed, developing and least developed economies."