Why the RCEP trade deal could strengthen China’s hand in Asia as world waits to see what course US will take in future

Why the RCEP trade deal could strengthen China’s hand in Asia as world waits to see what course US will take in future

The Asia-Pacific trade pact signed over the weekend could help cement Beijing’s influence in the region amid uncertainty about what course the new US administration will adopt, international trade specialists have said.

After eight years of negotiations, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement on Sunday.

It was hailed as the world’s biggest trade deal, covering around 30 per cent of the world’s population and gross domestic product, and will establish common rules for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.

It could come into force as early as next year and will eliminate up to 90 per cent of tariffs between signatories within 10 years of taking effect.