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ASEAN bargains on RCEP trade deal to secure 'centrality' in Asia

Southeast Asian nations leverage agreement to balance great powers US and China

BANGKOK -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership covering 30% of the world's population and gross domestic product was signed last month after eight years of marathon negotiations.

As the United States and some other nations are taking a protectionist path, RCEP is significant in a general sense in that it's an Asia-based free trade framework. But it brings different gains and losses for each of the 15 signatories made up of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and five Asia-Pacific countries.

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