RCEP consists of all 10 Asean member states, and six of Asean's FTA partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. (Photo courtesy of the Asean Secretariat)

RCEP Leaders to Wrap Up Negotiations by 2018

BY :SHEANY

NOVEMBER 15, 2017

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has urged leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the bloc's free trade agreement partners to command their respective negotiators to adopt a more flexible, pragmatic and realistic approach to finally wrap up talks on the regional comprehensive economic partnership, or RCEP.

The president spoke during the RCEP leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 31st Asean Summit in Manila, the Philippines, on Tuesday (14/11).

"I understand there are differences in ambitions, which is a challenge we cannot ignore. However, RCEP is a living document, so we can keep on developing it as time goes by," Jokowi said, as quoted in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.

Jokowi added that all participating countries should increase efforts to conclude the negotiations by 2018.

RCEP consists of all 10 Asean member states, and six of Asean's FTA partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

In a joint statement, leaders of the 16 countries reaffirmed their willingness to form the economic partnership that will "support an open and enabling trade and investment environment in the region."

While formal negotiations on the RCEP began in 2012, reaching a consensus on the ambitious agreement has been both complex and challenging, given the economic diversity of the participating countries.

"RCEP should take into consideration the different levels of development of the participating countries, and include appropriate forms of flexibility," the statement said.

This flexibility includes provisions for special and differential treatment of least-developed Asean states.

The participating countries are now tasked with consolidating existing Asean+1 FTAs partnerships and building new economic linkages between the regional bloc's free trade agreement (FTA) partners.

RCEP states represent almost half of the world population, 31.6 percent of global output and about 28.5 percent of global trade.

The partnership is expected to support job creation, drive sustainable growth, foster inclusive development and promote innovation.

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