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(27 Aug 2020) Economic and trade ministers from 15 Asia-Pacific nations held a virtual meeting on Thursday to iron out issues and conflicts with the hope of concluding negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a major free trade agreement accounting for a third of the global economy.
The ministerial meeting via video conferencing was held against the backdrop of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic wrecking the global economy and hindering trade cooperation.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is much more than a health crisis, but it also an acute socio-economic crisis," Vietnamese Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh said during his opening remark.
The negotiation for the trade pact was launched in 2012.
India opted out last year citing the deal would not serve its best benefits.
Negotiating partners said, however, it is still open for India to rejoin as the country was among original negotiators and the potentials it can bring.
"Over the past few years sluggish economic growth combined with a weak demand and rising trade tensions and protectionism have been causing much strain on global trade and COVID-19 has added fuel to this situation," said South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
The agreement is expected to be signed by the end of 2020.
RCEP negotiating participants include ASEAN's 10 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and its partners Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea and Japan.
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