By ELAINE KURTENBACH
AP Business Writer
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian countries are looking to a China-centered trade bloc encompassing about a third of world trade and business activity to help power recoveries from the pandemic. The Regional and Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, takes effect on Jan. 1. It includes China, Japan, South Korea and many other Asian countries but not the U.S. or India. The trading bloc will slash tariffs on many products, streamline trade and is meant to provide mutual advantages for member nations. It’s expected to boost trade within the region by about 2%, experts say. Countries in Southeast Asia are hoping the initiative will help power their recoveries from the prolonged miseries of the coronavirus pandemic.