Australia joins New Zealand to ratify regional trade pact RCEP

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia has joined New Zealand to ratify the world’s biggest free trade deal among southeast Asian nations and their major trading partners, ministers for both nations said.

The deal is the world’s largest trade pact, representing about 30 percent of the global population and gross domestic product.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will take effect on Jan. 1, setting common rules around trade in goods and services, intellectual property, e-commerce and competition.

Pact participants are the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their five free trade agreement partners: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

“Businesses will be able to take advantage of RCEP’s opportunities from early next year,” Phil Twyford, New Zealand’s minister of state for trade and export growth, said in a statement.

Australian Foreign Affairs minister Marise Payne said in a separate statement the deal would strengthen the country’s trade ties with ASEAN, signaling its commitment to an ASEAN-led regional economic architecture.