BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei joined 14 other Asia-Pacific countries to form the world’s largest trading bloc after signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement on November 15.

The RCEP deal is expected to bolster Brunei’s economic growth and help accelerate the region’s post-pandemic recovery efforts, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said in a titah.

Speaking ahead of the virtual signing of the ASEAN-led trade pact, he said the agreement is expected to provide new opportunities and strengthen economic ties among the participating countries.

“I believe that RCEP will be an engine of growth that will shape our economic landscape in the years to come,” he said.

The sultan added that participating countries were able to conclude the eight-year RCEP negotiations despite facing pandemic-induced economic challenges such as disruption of cross-border supply chains.

Second Minister of Finance and Economy YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah inked the trade deal with his ASEAN counterparts, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Fifteen countries ink the RCEP agreement in a virtual ceremony. Photo: Infofoto

The agreement will connect 2.2 billion people and encompass nearly 30 percent of the global economy.

Under RCEP, tariffs on at least 92 percent of goods will be gradually eliminated within 20 years.

It also aims to set common rules for trade, e-commerce, telecommunications and intellectual property.

India was part of the RCEP negotiations but withdrew last November amid concerns over trade imbalances.

However, RCEP countries have left the door open for India to join the trade bloc at a later date.

The accord will only take effect once six ASEAN countries and three of its partners ratify the agreement.