ASEAN’s regional trade partnership deal could be rolled out by 2018

PM Lee urged members working on the agreement to make trade-offs and compromises for the long-run.

The continued negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have reached its critical stage and its finality could be ‘in sight’ by 2018, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

“I encourage RCEP countries to take a long-term view, to keep up the momentum, to engage constructively and with maximum flexibility, so that we can deliver a high-quality RCEP Agreement this year,” Lee said.

When finalized, the agreement will be the world’s largest trading bloc as it covers a third of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

According to Lee, the RCEP builds upon the existing five ASEAN Plus One free trade agreements (FTAs) to further boost economic linkages, and enhance trade and investment flows.

“Of course, given the diversity of RCEP’s members, we all have to make trade-offs and compromises,” Lee noted. “But we should weigh these against the significant strategic and economic value of the RCEP.”

Aside from the RCEP agreement which is still under development, ASEAN enjoys six Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with seven of its key trading partners including Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

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