Australia to sign world’s biggest free-trade deal involving 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region


Australia will sign the world

Australia is among 15 countries to sign the world’s biggest trade deal – but India pulls out at the 11th hour over concerns about China

  • Australia will sign multilateral free-trade deal involving 15 Asia-Pacific nations
  • India pulled out of world’s biggest trade deal at last minute citing China worries
  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: 29 per cent of world economy 

Australia has agreed to sign the world’s biggest trade deal involving 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, the world’s biggest democracy, pulled out at the last minute, citing concerns about China, Australia’s biggest trading partner. 

Under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, negotiated in Bangkok, Australia will have easier access to telecommunications, professional and financial services.

It is also designed to expand online trade and establish a common set of rules for intellectual property. 

The multilateral trade deal would cover 29 per cent of the global economy. 

Australia will sign the world’s biggest trade deal involving 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region (Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pictured, far left, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah in Bangkok)

‘Against the backdrop of a fast-changing global environment, the completion of the RCEP negotiations will demonstrate our collective commitment to an open trade and investment environment across the region,’ the world leaders said in a joint statement late on Monday night.

The deal was endorsed by government leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also backed the statement, as did Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.  

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang endorsed the deal, too, giving the world’s most populous nation access to a multilateral free trade deal after US President Donald Trump withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, has declined to sign the deal, citing concerns about the influence of China.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham was confident India’s concerns could be addressed, so it would eventually join the deal and make it a pact involving 16 nations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison) has declined to sign the deal, citing concerns about the influence of China

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison) has declined to sign the deal, citing concerns about the influence of China

‘Trade agreements are always challenging in terms of the different interests of different parties,’ he told reporters in the northern Bangkok suburb of Nonthaburi.

‘Australia goes into this trying to achieve the most ambitious agreement possible, but realistic that we have, across the 16 countries, huge development differences, huge population differences, huge differences in the system of government and cultures of those countries.’

India’s reluctance to sign could delay or even jeopardise the prospect of a deal being ratified in early 2020. 

Senator Birmingham said nine of the nations likely to sign the deal were among Australia’s top 15 trading partners, accounting for 58 per cent of trade and two-thirds of exports. 

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (right with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) endorsed the deal, giving the world's most populous nation access to a multilateral free trade deal after US President Donald Trump withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (right with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) endorsed the deal, giving the world’s most populous nation access to a multilateral free trade deal after US President Donald Trump withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership

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