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Trade

Japan approves world's largest free trade pact with China and ASEAN

Move raises possibility for RCEP to enter into force later this year

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, will create a free trade zone covering a vast section of the world's economy.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's parliament approved Wednesday the world's largest free trade deal, signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries including China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, raising the possibility for the pact to enter into force later this year.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will create a free trade zone covering about 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, trade and population. It will be Japan's first trade deal involving both China and South Korea -- its largest and third biggest trade partners.

The pact, signed by the 15 countries last November, will come into effect 60 days after it is ratified by six of the ASEAN members and three of the other countries. As of Wednesday, Singapore and China have completed procedures for ratification.

The deal will eliminate tariffs on 91 percent of goods and introduces common rules on investment and intellectual property to promote free trade.

The government expects the trade accord will boost Japan's GDP by 2.7 percent and create 570,000 jobs.

RCEP groups the 10 ASEAN members -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- plus Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

India was one of the founding members but skipped all negotiations from November 2019 due to concern that its trade deficit with China would grow.

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