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China-led RCEP talks to conclude in 2015
August 28, 2014, 5:54 am

China's Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng (L) speaks during the 17th ASEAN Economic Ministers(AEM) Plus Three Consultations at Myanmar International Convention Center in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Aug. 26, 2014 [Xinhua]

China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng (L) speaks during the 17th ASEAN Economic Ministers(AEM) Plus Three Consultations at Myanmar International Convention Center in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Aug. 26, 2014 [Xinhua]

The China-led RCEP trade negotiations will conclude by the end of next year, Economic Ministers from the 16 countries said on Thursday.

The RCEP, or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, will be comprised of the 10-nation ASEAN club plus six others: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The combined economic output of the bloc reached $21.3 trillion in 2013, which accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the world output.

“The ministers reaffirmed they are committed to ending the RCEP negotiations in line with the vision endorsed by their state leaders for a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement that would support the achievement of the ASEAN Community and deeper regional economic integration,” said a joint statement released on Thursday.

The ministers made the pledge following the end of the Second RECP Ministerial Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw held as part of a series of related meetings of the 46th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting.

The RCEP aims to tie together ASEAN’s bilateral free trade agreements with each trading partner. With almost half of the world’s population, RCEP economies represent a massive market.

Upon successful conclusion, the RCEP would “spur economic dynamism through better market access, enhance deeper economic integration, create shared opportunities and help improve the standard of living for billions of people of this region” said the statement on Thursday.

RCEP adds to a burgeoning slew of regional and sectoral trade negotiations that sprung up after a decade of talks failed to conclude a global trade deal, the so-called Doha Round.

Discussions on the trade deal came as Beijing tried to counter US’ progress in forming a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that excludes China.

“We’re organising trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards,” Obama said referring to the TPP in a presidential debate in 2012.

China and India are not included in the US-led TPP trade pact.

Meanwhile, trying to steal a march over Washington, China has, earlier this year, proposed studying the feasibility of a mammoth free-trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region in addition to the contesting FTA’s, the US-led TPP and the China-led RCEP.

“We made a proposal to establish a working group to study the feasibility of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, and we have received responses from many members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum,” Wang Shouwen, assistant Commerce Minister was quoted by China Daily in Beijing.

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Five rounds of talks have been held so far.

The next round of negotiations will be held from 1-5 December 2014 in Greater Noida, in the outskirts of the Indian capital, New Delhi.

 

TBP and Agencies

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