Fifteen Asian countries agreed terms on Monday for what could be the world’s biggest trade pact, they said in a statement, but India delayed its decision on joining because of significant differences over tariffs and other issues.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is backed by China and also brings in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Participating countries met in Bangkok alongside a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.
“We noted 15 RCEP Participating Countries have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues,” the statement from the leaders said, to allow for signing next year.
“India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved... India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues,” it said.