ASEAN, Japan vow trade bloc talks


Economic ministers from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed Saturday to work toward launching talks by the end of the year on creating a regional free-trade agreement.

The ministers pledged to work toward talks on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership via working groups, according to a statement issued after the Japan-ASEAN ministerial meeting in Tokyo.

With this, practical moves toward a vast trade bloc encompassing up to 16 countries and over 3 billion people will begin in earnest.

RCEP, which will include the 10 members of ASEAN plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, is not expected to require the rigid tariff-cutting rules underpinning the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal pushed by the United States.