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World's Largest Trade Bloc Created During Vietnam-Led ASEAN Summit

Vietnam is now part of the world's largest trade bloc.

Al Jazeera reports that on Sunday, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a massive 15-country trade deal, was signed during the 37th annual ASEAN Summit, which Hanoi hosted remotely.

The pact includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, accounting for about 30% of global GDP and population. It will become the world's largest trade bloc.

The leaders of the signatories were present in a group video call, creating a new normal of trade diplomacy.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, who led the signing ceremony, said: "RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery."

The trade deal, which took eight years to negotiate, will gradually lower tariffs between the member states. India had initially been part of the deal, but dropped out due to domestic opposition to requirements related to open markets, the news source adds.

The RCEP is not as stringent as trade deals signed with the European Union, such as the one that Vietnam ratified earlier this year that sets standards on labor and environmental issues.

Vietnam's membership in RCEP adds to its role in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPPTP), both of which exclude the United States due to President Donald Trump's views on multilateral trade.

[Photo: Asia-Pacific leaders pose for a photo at the RCEP summit held in Bangkok last November/CNBC]

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