The deal is largely seen as a counter move against the US as president elect Joe Biden begins his struggle to rebuild the US economy. The countries involved included in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) represent 28 percent of global trade.
The agreement took place over video conference on Sunday following talks that spanned over 8 years.
The powerful deal slashed 90 percent of tariffs as well as simplified business with shared policies to access markets.
It includes the 10 members of Asean – Brunei-Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam plus the six countries with which Asean has free trade agreements – Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the 15 countries in RCEP represented 30 percent of the world’s population.
Furthermore, he said the 15 nations covered 30 percent of global Gross Domestic Product.
Touting the benefits of the agreement, he said: “Better access for our farmers and businesses means more jobs for Australians overall.
“For our farmers and exporters, they get a more common set of rules across all 15 nations.
“For our services export industry, they get significant new access across financial, banking, aged care, healthcare, education, and other types of services industries, right into provision of architectural or engineering and planning services.”
The news comes after the Government summoned the Chinese Ambassador on Thursday to protest after China’s government banned four opposition lawmakers from the Hong Kong parliament.
Beijing’s introduction of new security laws on Hong Kong meant internal opposition in the territory was crippled.
The move has mounted tensions with Britain, which had sovereignty over Hong Kong until 1997.
In its latest security measure, China expelled four MPs from the Hong Kong parliament under allegations of posing a risk to national security.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned Beijing’s ban on the four MPs.
He said: “Beijing’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong constitutes a clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“China has once again broken its promises and undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. The UK will stand up for the people of Hong Kong, and call out violations of their rights and freedoms.
“With our international partners, we will hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law.”
The Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, hit back at western criticism in an editorial warning the West “won’t succeed” with its pressure on Beijing.
The newspaper wrote: “Is there any Western country thinking it has the ability to pressure China to yield? Not at all. Western forces have quite complicated and selfish considerations when they step in the muddy waters of Hong Kong question.
“They want to contain China by messing up Hong Kong, but they are unlikely to sacrifice their own interests to seek dominance over Hong Kong affairs. They know they won’t succeed, nor do they have the guts to do that.
“No external force can become a lever to help the opposition to challenge the central government constitutionally.”