The Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a free trade agreement between Asia-Pacific countries, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Starting in 2020, the 15 member countries represent about 30% of the world`s population (2.2 billion people) and 30% of global GDP ($26.2 trillion), making it the largest trading bloc in history.  The unification of existing bilateral agreements between ASEAN and five of its major trading partners was signed on 15 November 2020 at a virtual ASEAN summit hosted by Vietnam and will enter into force as soon as it has been ratified by at least six ASEAN signatories and three non-ASEAN countries.   The trade pact, which includes a mix of middle-income countries [Note 1] and low-income countries[Note 3], was developed at the ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia in 2011, when its negotiations were officially initiated in Cambodia at the 2012 ASEAN summit.   It is expected that within 20 years of entry into force, approximately 90% of import duties between its signatories will be removed and common rules are established for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.  Uniform rules of origin will help facilitate international supply chains and reduce export costs across the bloc. The 2020 agreement is expected to boost the global economy by $186 billion.   In 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation described RCEP`s first draft intellectual property provisions as “simply the worst copyright provisions ever seen in a trade agreement.”  The RCEP is the first free trade agreement between China, Japan and South Korea, three of Asia`s four largest economies.  When it was signed, analysts predicted that it would help revive the economy in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, “bring the economic centre of gravity back to Asia” and accentuate the decline of the United States in economic and political affairs.
   The agreement aims to reduce tariffs and bureaucracy. It contains uniform rules of origin throughout the bloc, which can facilitate international supply chains and trade within the region.   In addition, some tariffs are prohibited. It does not focus on trade unions, environmental protection or public subsidies.  The RCEP is not as comprehensive as the comprehensive and progressive trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, another free trade agreement in the region that encompasses some of the same countries.  The RCEP “does not establish uniform employment and environmental standards or require countries to open services and other vulnerable areas of their economies.”  Sources: India decides not to join the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).