Fifteen nations in the Asia-Pacific region have entered into the world’s largest free-trade deal, sealing an agreement that excludes the United States and extends Beijing’s economic sway in the region. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed Sunday on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), held via videoconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The RCEP includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia, with members accounting for around 30 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the signing of the RCEP was “a victory of multilateralism and free trade”. “The signing of the RCEP is not only a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, but also a victory of multilateralism and free trade … and provides new impetus to the recovery of world economic growth,” Li said. The pact would take effect within the next two years after all countries ratified the agreement domestically, Indonesia Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said last week. Without providing details, China’s Ministry of Finance said on Sunday that the new pact included promises to eliminate tariffs within the group, including some immediately and others gradually over a decade. Participants in the agreement include a mix of developed, developing and poor economies, with special clauses for transitional arrangements, including technology transfers for the least developed nations such as Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.