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Cutting Through the Hype on Asia’s New Trade Deal

Last month, 15 countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a landmark Indo-Pacific trade deal designed to “create new employment opportunities, raise living standards, and improve the general welfare of their peoples.” The original impetus for negotiations came from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which contributes 10 of the partnership’s members. But around 80 percent of the new bloc’s combined $25 trillion GDP comes from just two countries: China and Japan. Another $3 trillion comes from ASEAN, and the remainder from South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

Is the RCEP big? Yes. Is it meaningful? No.

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Published inAll ArticlesForeign Policy
Sydney-based globalization expert Salvatore Babones is available to speak on the Chinese economy (demographics, growth, technology), the Belt & Road Initiative, global trade networks, and Australia-China relations. Contact: