China, Russia suffer setback to global ambitions with major player refusing to join trading bloc

The refusal of the United States to join a proposed China and Russia-led regional trading bloc could cause a major setback to the two countries’ ambitions for greater global influence.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would create a 15-nation bloc that was set to be the world’s largest trade zone. It was meant to create a new framework for Asia-Pacific economic cooperation that included all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

But the chances of the US joining the bloc were dashed on Sunday when President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the talks. Trump said the US was not ready to finalize a deal, as he wants a more favorable agreement with countries around the world.

The decision is a major setback to Beijing and Moscow, who had hoped the RCEP would give them greater economic clout on the global stage. Without the US, the trading bloc would consist of countries with a collective population of 3.5 billion people and about 30% of global GDP.

China in particular was eager to see the trade deal go through, as it would help Beijing gain more access to Asian markets and allow it to better exert its influence in the region. Russia was also hoping the bloc would help it build stronger economic ties with its Asian neighbors. However, without the US on board these ambitions may be stymied.