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The second meeting of Economic Ministers from the participating countries in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its free trade agreement (FTA) partners – China, South Korea, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – was held in Myanmar on August 27.
The RCEP should bring together those existing FTAs completed by ASEAN – whose member countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – into a single comprehensive agreement.
Its aim is to broaden, deepen, and improve significantly all elements of those agreements, including tariffs, and chapters relating to market liberalization for services and investment, intellectual property, competition, and legal matters, such as dispute resolution.
As it had been reported that it had not yet been possible to agree on the actual extent of tariff reductions during the ongoing negotiations, doubts were being expressed as to whether it would be possible to adhere to the original target of completing the RCEP by December next year. However, the Ministers stated that they were, instead, "encouraged by the progress made after five rounds of negotiations since its launch in November 2012."
They reiterated their commitment to conclude the RCEP negotiations by the end of 2015, and produce "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."
RCEP negotiations began in Brunei in May 2013, with the first RCEP Ministerial Meeting also being held there in August last year. It has been agreed that the sixth round of negotiations will be held in India at the beginning of December.
It is envisioned that an agreement would form one of the largest FTAs in the world, covering three billion people and 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product at around USD21 trillion. It is also expected to become the platform for future trade and investment integration in Asia.
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