BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei – Ahead of an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting that begins Wednesday (April 24th) in Brunei, 16 Asia-Pacific countries plan to launch talks on a free trade zone that would cover over half the world's population, AFP reported.
The start of negotiations for the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will proceed next month despite stubborn territorial rifts among members, including China, Japan and some Southeast Asian nations, according to a document obtained by AFP.
The idea for the RCEP emerged from an ASEAN summit held last year in Phnom Penh. Its concluding statement specified that negotiations for the RCEP would begin in Brunei and wrap up in 2015.
According to AFP, the RCEP would cover ASEAN's ten member countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Its goal would be to tie up ASEAN's bilateral free trade agreements with each trading partner.