Indonesia says expects RCEP trade pact to be signed on Sunday

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia expects the world’s largest trade pact involving 15 countries in Asia Pacific will be signed during a virtual leaders summit at the weekend, the country’s trade minister said on Tuesday.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are scheduled to conclude talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at a summit on Nov. 15, said Indonesian Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto.

“On Nov. 15, 2020, the mega free-trade agreement RCEP will be signed,” he told reporters, adding that the “strategic” deal should boost his country’s exports to other signatory countries.

Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for economic affairs, said the RCEP could help countries in the region accelerate their economic recovery from the current downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 15 countries, which account for 29% of global gross domestic product, agreed on RCEP terms last year, setting up the path for the deal to be signed this year.

India pulled out of talks last year, worried that the elimination of tariffs would open its markets to a flood of imports that could harm local producers. Other countries have said the door remains open for New Delhi.

After the signing, all countries would have to ratify the RCEP within two years before it becomes effective, Indonesia’s trade minister said, adding that Jakarta would use the time to prepare businesses to take full advantage of the deal.

Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies