New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In a significant development, China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries on Sunday signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest free trade agreement, encompassing nearly a third of all economic activities. The RCEP is seen as an alternative to the now-defunct Washington trade initiative and a symbol of China's growing influence.

"The largest regional trade agreement offers mutually beneficial partnership through series of commitments covering market access, rules, & economic-technical cooperation," ASEAN wrote on Twitter.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. The group makes around 30 per cent of the world's total GDP. Leaders of RCEP countries are hoping the free trade pact will help their economies recover from the coronavirus-led slowdown.

"Under the current global circumstances, the fact the RCEP has been signed after eight years of negotiations brings a ray of light and hope amid the clouds," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said after the virtual signing of the free trade pact.

"It clearly shows that multilateralism is the right way, and represents the right direction of the global economy and humanity's progress."

The deal was first proposed in 2012 but took a long time to reach a consensus and finally sealed on Sunday at the end of a Southeast Asian summit. India has decided not to be a part of the RCEP and pulled out of the deal last year. India's absence means RCEP will have China will have its influence since Bejing has long been making efforts to seal the deal.

Posted By: Shashikant Sharma