SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) — Trade ministers from 15 nations on Tuesday reaffirmed that a mega Asia-Pacific trade pact will be signed later this year, but India again skipped the negotiations, according to Seoul’s trade ministry.

ASEAN members and their dialogue partners — South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand — effectively reached an agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last November, with the goal of signing the pact within this year.

However, India did not join last November’s agreement, citing concerns over the influx of more price-competitive Chinese products into its market.

While reaffirming their commitment to sign the RCEP deal this year, the ministers also noted the importance of the deal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Seoul’s trade ministry said in a statement.

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee said the RCEP pact would help participating nations deal with a revamp of global supply chains once the pandemic wanes.

If signed, the RCEP deal will create one of the world’s largest economic blocs, as the 16 countries together account for about 45 percent of the global population and over 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

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