KUALA LUMPUR • Enhanced efforts were called for at the Asean leaders' summit yesterday to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks next year.
"Substantial progress" had been made at the RCEP talks, with many fundamental issues resolved, said a joint statement issued at the summit.
Launched in November 2012, the RCEP talks involve the 10 Asean member states and six dialogue partners - China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India - with the objective of expanding regional trade and investment.
The talks had been scheduled for completion this year. So far, 10 rounds of negotiations have been completed, in addition to four ministerial-level meetings.
The accord is a competing vision to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for an Asia-Pacific trade bloc, reflecting the struggle for dominance by economic powers over a region that is increasingly a driver of global growth. A dozen Pacific Rim nations came to agreement last month on the TPP, more than five years in the making.
Yesterday's statement on the RCEP noted that more time was needed to conclude the negotiations. "We request our negotiators to intensify efforts to conclude and achieve a mutually beneficial and high-quality agreement in 2016," it said.
Last Saturday, China called on East Asian nations to accelerate their economic integration and safeguard regional stability.
Putting forward a six-point proposal, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the Asean-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting that China stood ready to work with others to conclude the RCEP negotiations by next year to promote trade and regional integration.
The RCEP is expected to help businesses with improved market access, trade facilitation and regulatory reform.