Ministers push for conclusion of RCEP talks
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Ministers push for conclusion of RCEP talks

Agreement viewed as alternative to TPP

Trade ministers from the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have agreed to push for the pact's conclusion this year.

According to Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, who just arrived from the fourth RCEP ministerial meeting held on Aug 5 in Laos, 10 Asean trade ministers and six trade partners -- India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand -- reiterated that talks must conclude by year-end.

They also assigned trade negotiators from the 16 member states to meet from Aug 12-19 to work out a resolution.

Mrs Apiradi said the talks should cover trade, services, investment and economic cooperation in a comprehensive manner.

"Thailand has fully supported plans to wrap up RCEP talks by the end of this year, as RCEP is one of the largest trade blocs, with combined GDP amounting to US$22.9 trillion or 29% of GDP worldwide," she said. "As Thailand is heavily reliant on exports and facing export troubles thanks to the slower-than-expected economic recovery of the United States and European Union, RCEP thus plays a crucial role for Thailand's agricultural, industrial and service sectors to offset weak exports in traditional key export markets."

RCEP's 16 proposed member countries also represent 29% of global trade or $9.5 trillion.

RCEP was launched in November 2012 with the aim of establishing deeper economic cooperation between the 10 Asean members and six trading partners, with a focus on trade in goods, services and investment.

RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which includes the US but excludes China.

Twelve Pacific Rim countries led by the US concluded the TPP agreement on Oct 5 last year.

TPP countries encompass 40% of global trade and one-third of world trade.

Mrs Apiradi said Asean trade ministers also talked about the feasibility of opening trade talks under the Asean framework with the Eurasian Economic Union, which consists of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Moreover, she said the Asean trade ministers have agreed to revitalise the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), with talks likely to start early next year.

AANZFTA is Australia's first multi-country FTA. It is the first time Australia and New Zealand had been involved jointly in negotiating an FTA with third countries. It is the first time Asean has embarked on FTA negotiations covering all sectors, including goods, services, investment and intellectual property.

The AANZFTA came into force on Jan 1, 2010.

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