ASEAN aims to wrap up RCEP deal in 2018

ASEAN aims to wrap up RCEP deal in 2018”

"Lastly, an FTA with Russian Federation is being explored as a region-to-region FTA between ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with information-sharing and confidence building activities to be undertaken as stepping stones to possible more formal FTA talks", Lopez said.

ASEAN has free trade agreements (FTA) with the six dialogue partners.

RCEP will cover ASEAN's 10 member-states and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, who chaired the ministerial meeting, said the participants were close to reaching conclusions in areas including customs procedures, trade facilitation and competition. Total trade between ASEAN and Russian Federation decreased by 13 percent to US$11.6 million in 2016 from $13.4 million the previous year.

"For Canada, in particular, ASEAN has embarked on a Joint Feasibility Study which is still a work in progress, and have agreed on the conduct of exploratory discussions to further assess the merits for such a proposal of a possible FTA", he added.

Despite the strained relations between the Philippines and the European Union, Lopez noted that ASEAN under President Rodrigo Duterte's chairmanship moved to resume negotiations for a regional FTA with the European Union.

"We were unable to reach an agreement on several items [among the issues being negotiated] and it is therefore very hard to come to an agreement by the end of this year", Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters after the ministerial meeting on Sunday in Manila.

ASEAN signed an FTA and a related investment agreement with Hong Kong on Sunday.

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