Ministers from 15 Asia-Pacific countries negotiating a sprawling free trade agreement agreed Tuesday to continue aiming for a deal by the end of the year, while keeping the door open for India to return to the talks.

"We believe that India's participation in (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) would contribute to the advancement and prosperity of the region. We therefore wish to emphasize that the RCEP remains open for India," the ministers said in a joint statement following a videoconference.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand said last November that they had concluded the bulk of negotiations.