Asean aims to encourage its six trading partners under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to liberalise more products and services.
"The RCEP should be larger than each bilateral trade pact between Asean and the six trading partners so that the RCEP will efficiently promote trade and economic growth in the region," Somkiat Triratpan, deputy director-general of Thailand's Trade Negotiations Department, said after the recent fifth meeting of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee in Singapore.
Economic ministers will discuss speeding up liberalisation and plans to knock down non-tariff barriers to ensure the RCEP meets the target of implementation by the end of next year at their next meetings set for August 27 in Myanmar's Nay Pyi Daw and India from December 1-5.
The discussions will also touch on other collaboration and non-tariff issues, including eliminating non-tariff barriers, developing sanitary standards and synchronising customs procedures.
The RCEP countries have agreed to discuss new topics such as investment promotion, intellectual-property rights, competitiveness and economic cooperation, legal aspects, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, e-commerce and government procurement.
The six trading partners are China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
If the 16-member RCEP is accomplished by 2015, it will be the world's largest free-trade area, with a population of 3.35 billion, or more than half of the world's people, and gross domestic product of US$17.1 trillion (Bt538 trillion), or 27 per cent of global GDP.
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