BANGKOK: Backed by China – and excluding the United States – the sprawling Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was poised to link half the world's people.
But it took a hit at the close of a three-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok Monday after India said it would not join the deal.
WHAT IS RCEP?
Launched in 2012, RCEP is a trade pact between the 10-member ASEAN bloc, along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and until recently, India.
It was supposed to link around 3.4 billion people and cover about 40 per cent of global commerce.
Without India's vast population, the deal will now include 2.1 billion people.
Its aim is to break down trade barriers and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
It mainly matters because it doesn't include the US – and is notably being backed by Beijing.
Observers say it will cement China's domination over its backyard, where it faces little competition from America since President Donald Trump pulled out of a trade pact of its own.
That deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was on track to be the world's biggest trade pact, until Washington pulled the rug out from under it, saying it funnelled off US jobs.
With Washington and Beijing embroiled in a trade spat of their own, RCEP's backers are hoping to finalise the deal next year even without India.
WHAT WAS INDIA OPPOSED TO?
A few things.
It raised alarm about market access issues, fearing its domestic producers could be hard hit if the country was flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
Textiles, dairy, and agriculture were flagged as three vulnerable industries.
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