Asian Free Trade Proposal Is Broad in Scope, Narrow in Focus

MIN READMar 25, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

Leaders of the 16 countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership assemble for a group photo on Nov. 14, 2018, in Singapore. The proposed trade agreement seeks to integrate the economies of Southeast Asia with China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.


A long-running proposal to create the world's largest free trade zone has stagnated under the weight of its members' disagreements. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a trade initiative between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six free trade partners: India, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. Ambitious in scope, RCEP would encompass 3.6 billion people and account for a third of the world's total economic output. But 25 rounds of talks spanning six years have failed to produce a consensus. Now, lingering obstacles threaten to dash the prospects of sealing a final agreement by the time a high-level ASEAN summit is held in Thailand in November....

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