Thanks to the Department of Trade and Industry.
TOKYO (UPDATE) - Asian and Pacific countries, including Japan, China and the 10 members of ASEAN, signed a regional trade agreement covering nearly a third of the world economy on Sunday, concluding eight years of negotiations after India's departure.
During the Summit, the 15 signatories of the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership reached an agreement aimed at reducing tariffs and establishing common rules in areas such as e-commerce and intellectual property.
The RCEP - which also includes Australia, New Zealand and South Korea - will create the largest free trade zone in Asia, covering about a third of the world's population.
It will be Japan's first trade agreement with both China, its largest trading partner, and South Korea, as trilateral pact negotiations have not yet been concluded.
Speaking to reporters after the agreement was signed, Japan's trade minister, Hiroshi Kajiyama, said that 15 countries are eager to quickly complete internal procedures and bring the treaty into force "as soon as possible.
Negotiations on the RCEP began in 2012, with China pushing it as an alternative to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. Later, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the RCEP negotiations and a revised treaty was signed by the remaining 11 countries, including Japan.
India said last November that it would no longer participate in the regional cooperation project to address concerns that its domestic manufacturing and agricultural sectors would face stiffer competition from Chinese imports.
According to Japanese government sources, a special agreement will be made to facilitate India's return to the pact by exempting it from the rule that prohibits the entry of new participants for a certain period of time.
Kajiyama welcomed the agreement as a new opportunity for Japanese producers and farmers, saying it would "contribute greatly to increasing exports to Asia.
The RCEP was expected to fall far behind Japan's revised CHPP or the trade agreement with the European Union on tariff reductions.
Under the draft agreement, Japan would eliminate 61% of tariffs on agricultural imports from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, 56% for China, and 49% for South Korea, while maintaining tariffs on five product categories - rice, wheat, dairy products, sugar, and beef and pork - to protect domestic farmers.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Photo Courtesy of the Department of Trade and Industry