RCEP trade deal an "incredibly important agreement": Australian trade minister

CANBERRA, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — Australia’s trade minister has described the signing of the world’s largest free trade agreement (FTA) between 15 countries as a significant commitment to “trade, openness and ambition.”

“This is an incredibly important agreement in terms of the timing for when it occurs,” said Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.

The 15 countries, including China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), on Sunday signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after eight years of negotiations.

Signatories to the agreement represent nearly 30 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and about 30 percent of the world’s population.

“This agreement signifies that our region, which has been the most economically dynamic region of the world in recent decades, is still committed to openness and to trade and that we will use that as a platform and a springboard for recovery in the post-COVID era,” he said.

“Australia is a country where one in five jobs relies upon trade, and we know that better access for our farmers and businesses means more jobs for Australians overall.”

Birmingham noted that Australian businesses in education, healthcare, accountancy, engineering and legal service industries would benefit the most from the deal, which will allow them to open offices throughout countries included in the deal.

“The RCEP agreement includes nine out of Australia’s 15 top trading nations. These are our biggest trade partners, and that’s why having more common rules and better access into those markets is going to be great news for our businesses, our farmers, and for jobs of Australians in the economic recovery of Australians,” he said.

In-person meetings between trade ministers of the RCEP countries are expected to resume in 2021.

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