November 9, 2018
Singapore--Sixteen Asian and Oceanian countries will agree next week to conclude their negotiations on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade deal in 2019, it was learned Thursday.
Leaders of the 16 nations "instructed the ministers and negotiators to work toward the full conclusion of the RCEP negotiations in 2019," according to a draft of a joint statement to be issued after their meeting in Singapore on Wednesday.
The 16 countries are the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. They together account for half of the world's population and 30 pct of global trade and gross domestic product.
The draft does not refer to a substantial conclusion that the 16 countries have aimed to achieve within this year.
Whether to include this phrase in the final version of the statement is likely to be discussed in a two-day ministerial meeting from Monday.
Informed sources said it is uncertain whether the phrase will make it to the statement.
At working-level talks late last month, the RCEP countries reached an agreement in the field of dispute settlement. As a result, five of the 18 RCEP fields have already been settled.
The 16 countries are struggling particularly over import tariffs, the sources said.
The RCEP negotiations began in 2013. Jiji Press
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