Asia Pacific nations including China, Japan and South Korea on Sunday signed the world’s largest regional free-trade agreement, encompassing nearly a third of the world’s population and gross domestic product.

Top officials from 15 nations that also include Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations inked the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP -- nearly a decade in the making -- on the final day of the 37th Asean Summit hosted virtually by Vietnam.

“The completion of negotiations is a strong message affirming Asean’s role in supporting the multilateral trade system,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said ahead of the virtual signing ceremony. The agreement will contribute to “developing supply chains that have been disrupted due to the pandemic as well as supporting economic recovery,” he said.

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