"Its membership includes a larger group of nations, notably reflecting the membership of China, which considerably boosts the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of RCEP members", according to Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for analyst firm IHS Markit.
With global trade and the economy foundering on the shoals of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as new infections in Europe and the US prompt fresh restrictions there, the pre-eminence of the east Asian and Pacific countries including China, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand serving as a bulwark in containing the pandemic and re-energising economic activity can hardly be understated.
"At the same time as the Trump administration is pushing for "de-coupling" from China, India, in fact, is promoting its economic "de-Sinicization" process more provocatively", another expert said writing for Chinese state media Global Times.
The deal is also seen as a way for China to draft the rules of trade in the region, after years of USA retreat under President Donald Trump which have seen Washington pull out of a trade pact of its own, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In the meantime, India could participate in the RCEP deliberations that includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia - as an observer.
"New Zealand's two-way trade with India is now around $3 billion".
However, the Chinese state media said that the decision to opt-out of the agreement is "a major strategic decision made after careful consideration" owing to economic sanctions enforced by New Delhi on China in the a year ago.
The RCEP gives China a chance to throw its weight around in an arena where the United States has substantially less say.
15 countries agreed to the new 'Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the ASEAN summit previous year. Bringing India back to the negotiating table will be Japan's next challenge. Even Australia, which has so far refused to sign up for any US-led containment of China, has endorsed the deal, despite an ongoing diplomatic rift with Beijing, its biggest trade partner by far.
"President-elect Biden hasn't said (if the U.S. will) take part in CPTPP or not".
That leaves space for Biden to get like-minded partners like the European Union and Japan, who care more about these issues, onboard for more sustainable trade pacts.
Among the agreements on market access with China, the world's second-largest economy will incrementally eliminate the 40% tariff it imposes on Japanese sake over 21 years after the deal takes effect.
The trade agreement was first proposedin 2012 as a way to create one of the world's largest free-trade zones. However, these measures never cast a shadow over Asia's export-intensive trading potential, and the sustained diplomatic foresight that ultimately concretized the region's potential under RCEP.
Trade and investment flows within Asia have vastly expanded over the past decade, a trend that has accelerated amid feuding between the US and China, which have imposed billions of dollars' worth of punitive tariffs on each other's exports.
The RCEP agreement "is an unprecedented mega regional trading arrangement that comprises a diverse mix of developed, developing and least developed economies of the region", leaders of the participating countries said in a joint statement at the fourth RCEP summit prior to the signing ceremony.
Specifically which areas are open to tariff reductions under RCEP is complex and changes from country to country.
"RCEP, therefore, is a much-needed platform for the Indo-Pacific's post-COVID recovery", he wrote.
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