Ministers of the 15 countries that did sign have issued a declaration saying they remain open to India joining after RCEP comes into force.
Acknowledging the strategic importance of India eventually becoming a party of to RCEP, the special ministers' statement said, "RCEP Signatory States will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of the RCEP Agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to it".
The pact has Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and all 10 members of the ASEAN grouping as its members. Officials said the accord leaves the door open for India, which dropped out due to fierce domestic opposition to its market-opening requirements, to rejoin the bloc.
South Korea already has free trade pacts with 13 of the 14 RCEP partner economies.
Japanese trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama meets the press in Tokyo on November 15, 2020, following an online summit of the 15 Asia-Pacific countries that constitute the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signatories.More news: Dolly Parton Will Keep Spreading Christmas Cheer With CBS Special
The pact is seen as an extension of China's influence in the region.
President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shortly after taking office. "It can be said that the agreement covers all aspects of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation", Wang said. So, having won over disaffected rust-belt voters in MI and western Pennsylvania in the November 3 election, Biden is "not going to squander that by going back into TPP", Michael Jonathan Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a web seminar.
The fast-growing and increasingly affluent Southeast Asian market of 650 million people has been hit hard by the pandemic and is urgently seeking fresh drivers for growth. It will account for 30 per cent of the global economy, 30 per cent of the global population and reach 2.2 billion consumers, according to Vietnam.
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
The RCEP members, including Japan, China and the 10 members of ASEAN, signed the world's largest free trade deal during the virtual meeting, wrapping up eight years of negotiations aimed at cutting tariffs and establishing common rules in areas such as e-commerce and intellectual property. The EU and Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the revised version of the deal Trump rejected, also are smaller.More news: Salah returns second positive coronavirus result
Lee, who led Singapore's delegation, hailed the signing of the RCEP as a "major milestone" and congratulated the 15 participating countries.
India, which was initially involved in the negotiations, withdrew as it was reluctant to open up its economy and expose its farmers and manufacturers to more competition.
He added that Japan, Australia and New Zealand are trying to bring India back on the negotiating table.
Trade and investment flows within Asia have vastly expanded over the past decade, a trend that has accelerated amid feuding between the USA and China, which have imposed billions of dollars' worth of punitive tariffs on each other's exports.
Among the key benefits of the agreement include tariff elimination of at least 92 per cent of goods traded among the participating countries, with additional preferential market access for Singapore's exports, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) aid in a media release on Sunday. Unlike the CPTPP and European Union, it does not establish unified standards on labor and the environment or commit countries to open services and other vulnerable areas of their economies.More news: Flooding kills 7 in North Carolina, several people still missing
"Certainly we would expect the new administration to focus more on Asean and how we can strengthen the US-Asean trade and investment opportunities because the Asean region has a huge market".