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Singapore — Singapore’s prime minister hopes to complete a massive China-backed regional trade pact by the end of the year. The 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has taken centre stage as Washington embarks on a unilateral, protectionist agenda. RCEP is poised to become the largest free-trade agreement in the world, covering about half of its population. It notably excludes the US, which had been leading another regional trade pact — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — until US President Donald Trump abruptly abandoned it last year. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Southeast Asian countries were "redoubling their efforts to conclude the RCEP … by the end of the year". The planned RCEP pact would group the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. In his comments, which came at the start of a meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Singapore, Lee also warne...

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