EFEManila

The dozen countries that concluded negotiations in October on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement decided here Wednesday that the deal would be signed on Feb. 4, 2016, in New Zealand and that the signatories' respective legislatures would have two years to ratify it.

That decision was adopted in Manila during a meeting arranged by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has spearheaded this agreement aimed at linking 12 Pacific Rim countries accounting for 40 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The leaders of all 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States) took part in the gathering, held on the sidelines of the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Manila.

In a joint statement on the trade pact, which will eliminate tariffs on some 18,000 products, the 12 countries hailed the successful conclusion of more than five years of negotiations.

Trade ministers and negotiating teams had delivered "a result that achieves the goal set out in 2011 of a comprehensive, balanced, and transformational regional agreement - one that spans the Pacific, touches three continents, and unites 800 million people," the TPP leaders said in a joint statement.

"By setting high-standard trade rules that will support 21st-century commerce and providing ambitious liberalization of trade and investment, the TPP will strengthen and broaden the mutually beneficial linkages between our economies," they added.

The leaders said they were pleased that the negotiated text of the agreement, which has been touted as a counterweight to China's growing economic clout but been criticized by sectors opposed to the elimination of trade barriers, including U.S. labor unions, was now fully available for review before being signed.

The leaders hailed what they said would be swift economic benefits from the accord, which much be ratified by the end of the two-year implementation deadline.

"Through TPP we are creating a new and compelling model for trade in one of the world's fastest growing and most dynamic regions," they said.

Along those same lines, Obama said negotiations were concluded thanks to the commitment of all 12 countries, praising all of them for doing an exceptional job.

A trade accord that includes the world's first- and third-biggest economies - the United States and Japan - marks a decisive step in facilitating global trade, some analysts say, noting that that goal has not been achieved through the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Round.

"It is not only a good deal economically but also reflects our common values," Obama said Wednesday in Manila, referring to rules designed to prevent child labor, provisions to protect the environment and oceans, and regulations aimed at combating wildlife trafficking.

"TPP is at the heart of our shared vision for the future of this dynamic region," the president added.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, for her part, said it was important to underscore the benefits TPP would provide the 12 nations' citizens in terms of job creation and prosperity.