Ministers have put pen to paper on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, one of the biggest international trade deals in recent history.
Representatives of the 12 TPP member nations - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam - signed the document at a formal ceremony in Auckland this week, the culmination of a five-year process of negotiations.
The terms of the deal were finalised in October 2015, with the next step being to complete the legislative processes needed at a domestic level to bring the trade agreement's measures into force in each of the 12 countries.
Spearheaded by the US, the purpose of the TPP is to facilitate trade between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, while giving the US a greater influence in the establishment of trading principles in an area that tends to be dominated by the influence of China.
US trade representative Michael Froman said: "TPP will set a new standard for trade and investment in one of the world's fastest growing and most dynamic regions. We signatories comprise nearly 40 per cent of global GDP, a market of more than 800 million people, and around one-third of world trade.
"Our goal is to enhance shared prosperity, create jobs and promote sustainable economic development for all of our nations."
However, numerous hurdles still need to overcome before the TPP can be brought into full force, with protesters from many of the TPP nations expressing concerns that the agreement could result in job losses and protections being offered to big businesses rather than workers.
Stakeholders in each nation will need to be convinced of the trade pact's benefits if this opposition is to be overcome.