Singapore and other stakeholders have reiterated their commitment to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) mega trade deal this year, despite the turmoil stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In their latest virtual ministerial meeting, they also noted that "the RCEP remains open for India", which backed out of talks in November last year while citing unresolved "significant issues".
A statement yesterday from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10-member Asean, which includes Singapore, said the deal's importance has grown amid the pandemic.
They added that signing it "will serve as a clear signal of our unwavering support for the multilateral trading system, regional integration as well as economic development across the region".
After India's departure, Singapore's Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran last year called for the other parties to "keep the door open for India to come in at the appropriate time, but without compromising the disciplines and protocols that we have all agreed to".
The remaining countries have now said in their latest statement: "India has been an important participant in the RCEP negotiations since the launch in 2012."
They added: "We believe that India's participation in RCEP would contribute to the advancement and prosperity of the region."
The participants also said that they have agreed to enhance cooperation and coordination to enable recovery and growth after the pandemic crisis is over.
The RCEP will be the biggest trade pact in the world, as it will involve countries that together make up one-third of global gross domestic product.
Singapore is also part of another mega trade bloc - the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was inked in 2018 among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
But, in a blow to regional trade ambitions, United States President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in January 2017, soon after his election win.
THE BUSINESS TIMES