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ASEAN to conclude RCEP negotiations by November 2019

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations expects to conclude negotiations for Asia-wide trade deal involving 16 countries by November 2019 although it does not expect the deal to be signed by then. The targets for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, being negotiated among the 10-member ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, were discussed in two days of talks among ASEAN economic ministers on the Thailand’s Phuket.

The ministers of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam agreed to finalise the protracted RCEP negotiations by the time. When the 16 RCEP nations' leaders met last November, they resolved to reach a final agreement within 2019, after missing a year-end deadline amid disagreements over tariffs and other politically sensitive issues. RCEP talks began in 2013 and the initial goal was to wrap them up in 2015.

Covering a third of the global economy, RCEP will be one of the world's largest free trade zones. It will help boost the economic growth of the region and support the plan of ASEAN to double intra-ASEAN trade in 2025 from 2017's figure of about $590 billion.