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Leaders call for swift conclusion of RCEP negotiations

All News 17:54 September 08, 2016

By Song Sang-ho

VIENTIANE, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of 16 countries seeking to clinch a regional free trade agreement on Thursday called for the swift conclusion of their negotiations, voicing their hope for "balanced, high-quality and mutually beneficial" outcomes.

The leaders of South Korea, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the 10-member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted a joint statement, stressing the importance of advancing their negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The statement was adopted on the sidelines of multiple summits involving the ASEAN bloc in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

In the statement, the leaders, including President Park Geun-hye, said, "We instruct our ministers and officials to further intensify negotiations in a cooperative manner for the swift conclusion of the RCEP negotiations."

Last year, the leaders of the 16 countries set a goal to conclude the RCEP negotiations by the end of this year. But they now believe that more time will be needed to narrow their differences to strike a "balanced" trade deal.

RCEP negotiations first started in May 2013. Since then, the countries have held 14 rounds of official negotiations.

The total trade among the 16 countries amounted to US$11.9 trillion last year, while the combined output of the countries reached $22.4 trillion, 30.6 percent of the world's total output last year.

Wednesday's RCEP statement is in tune with Park's push to expand free trade and forestall protectionist tendencies.

During the South Korea-ASEAN summit on Wednesday, Park called for greater trade liberalization between South Korea and ASEAN under a bilateral free trade pact that took effect in 2007. She also stressed the need to accelerate RCEP negotiations.

This photo, taken on Sept. 7, 2016, shows President Park Geun-hye (5th from L) and the leaders of China, Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pose for a photo during their summit in the Laotian capital of Vientiane. (Yonhap)


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