The 10 Asean member states will hold talks with six close economic partners late this month on formal negotiations for establishing the world's largest free-trade zone under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The RCEP negotiations are meant to be completed by 2015 when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) comes into effect. If achieved, the pact will cover more than 27 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.
Piramol Charoenpao, director-general of the Commerce Ministry's Trade Negotiation Department, said negotiation committees from the 10 Asean countries plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand would meet from February 26-28 in Bali to kick off official negotiations on establishment of the RCEP.
"If all countries agree, the RCEP negotiations should officially start this year to ensure that the pact could be complete by 2015 amid the AEC integration.
This would make the Asean region the centre of Asian economic connectivity with this linkage to six other economic giants," Piramol said.
The RCEP would liberalise trade, services, and investment as well as cooperation on intellectual property and other issues to reduce trade obstacles to raise the competitiveness of its members. The pact would create the largest free-trade zone with a population of more than 3.3 billion, or 49.3 per cent of the world total. The combined GDP would be more than US$17.1 trillion (Bt511 trillion), or 27 per cent of the global economy.
According to a study by the department and the Thailand Development Research Institute, the Thai economy would increase by 4.03 per cent after the RCEP came into force. Many Thai products would enjoy more market access in the 15 other countries, such as fruits and vegetables, electronic goods, processed foods, rubber, plastic products, and automobiles.
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