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S. Korea urges conclusion of RCEP negotiations by 2018

2017/11/14 19:41

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MANILA, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will work to support the early conclusion of drawn out negotiations for an Asian free trade agreement, South Korea's trade minister said Tuesday.

In a meeting of leaders from 16 countries taking part in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Kim Hyun-chong also urged joint efforts to fight global trade protectionism, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Kim was speaking on behalf of South Korean President Moon Jae-in who was forced to skip the leaders' meeting due to a delay in his earlier meetings. The South Korean leader arrived here Sunday to take part in a regional forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"Minister Kim noted the rise in global risks due to a spread of trade protectionism and growing political uncertainties, but said such difficulties make it more important for the countries to actively deal with trade protectionism," Cheong Wa Dae said.

The South Korean official insisted the RCEP, if signed, will help create more jobs for people in the region while also providing a framework for comprehensive economic cooperation and co-prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

"He asked each and every country to exercise flexibility while pushing for a comprehensive and high-level deal, so that all participating countries will benefit from the free trade agreement," Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

"He urged all participating countries to step up their efforts to conclude RCEP negotiations at least by 2018."

   The RCEP currently involves 16 countries, including the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Australia, China, India, Japan and New Zealand.

So far, 20 rounds of RCEP negotiations have been held since the first round in June 2013. No major breakthrough has been made despite nine rounds of ministerial dialogue held in addition to the official negotiations, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

"Our government plans to actively contribute to RCEP negotiations by acting as a mediator to suggest reasonable compromises while maximizing our national interest to help reach a comprehensive, high-level and mutually beneficial deal in the near future," it said.

The RCEP, if signed, will be one of the largest regional free trade arrangements ever reached, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

In 2016, the 16 countries taking part in RCEP negotiations accounted for half of the global population, as well as 32 percent of global gross domestic product and 29 percent of global trade.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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