The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement is a significant achievement. Eight years of negotiation yielded an agreement between Asia-Pacific countries that account for 2.2-billion people and about 30% of the global economy. By those measures it is the largest trade deal in history.

More significantly, the partnership lays a foundation for future economic and political integration in Asia — and it is doing so without the US. Decisions by US administrations to maintain distance from this trade pact were a mistake — although it is not too late for this to be remedied. In the meantime, the US absence obliges Japan to show leadership to direct both agreements towards integration, openness, good governance and the rule of law...

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