The RCEP, which to date is the “largest” regional trade agreement, was initially negotiated between 16 countries – ASEAN members and countries with which they have free trade agreements (FTAs), namely Australia, China, Korea, Japan, New Zealand and India. The 2020 agreement is expected to boost the global economy by $186 billion.   India has not been able to provide counter-measures such as an automatic trigger mechanism to increase tariffs on products when its imports exceed a certain threshold. It also wanted RCEP to exclude the bonds of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) from the investment chapter, as it did not want to distribute to countries with which it has border disputes the advantages it offers to strategic allies or for geopolitical reasons. India considered that the agreement would require it to extend to all RCEP members the benefits granted to other countries for sensitive sectors such as defence. In 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation described the first draft of RCEP`s intellectual property provisions as “simply the worst copyright provisions ever seen in a trade agreement.”  India, as an initial participant in the RCEP negotiations, has the option of joining the agreement without having to wait 18 months, as planned for the new members under the terms of the pact. The RCEP signatories indicated that they intended to open negotiations with India as soon as it applied for “written registration” of the pact and that it could attend meetings as an observer prior to its accession. The Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a free trade agreement between Asia-Pacific countries, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Starting in 2020, the 15 member countries represent about 30% of the world`s population (2.2 billion people) and 30% of global GDP ($26.2 trillion), making it the largest trading bloc in history.  The unification of existing bilateral agreements between ASEAN and five of its major trading partners was signed on 15 November 2020 at a virtual ASEAN summit hosted by Vietnam and will enter into force as soon as it has been ratified by at least six ASEAN signatories and three non-ASEAN countries.   The trade pact, which includes a mix of middle-income countries [Note 1] and low-income countries[Note 3], was developed at the ASEAN summit in Bali, Indonesia in 2011, when its negotiations were officially initiated in Cambodia at the 2012 ASEAN summit.   It is expected that within 20 years of entry into force, approximately 90% of import duties between its signatories will be removed and common rules are established for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.  Uniform rules of origin will help facilitate international supply chains and reduce export costs across the bloc.
The RCEP is the first free trade agreement between China, Japan and South Korea, three of Asia`s four largest economies.  When it was signed, analysts predicted that it would help revive the economy in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, “bring the economic centre of gravity back to Asia” and accentuate the decline of the United States in economic and political affairs.    India has trade deficits with 11 of the 15 RCEP countries, and some experts believe that India has not been able to use its existing bilateral free trade agreements with several RCEP members to increase its exports.