SINGAPORE — Premier Li Keqiang called on parties involved in talks on a new Asia-Pacific free trade pact to keep up with their efforts so as to clinch the deal next year.
Talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have reached the final stage, Premier Li said in the 2nd leaders’ meeting on RCEP in Singapore on Nov 14.
“We must build on the momentum and unleash a strong finishing kick, striving to complete the deal within 2019,” he told leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India in the meeting.
ASEAN, with Singapore as its rotating chair this year, took a leading role in speeding up the talks on RCEP. A year ago, less than half of the talks were completed, and now nearly 80 percent has been done, Premier Li said.
The deal, once reached, would boost trade and investment, promote regional economic integration and benefit the people of all participating countries, Premier Li said.
Leaders in the meeting expressed a strong will to reach the deal as soon as possible, which will send a strong signal on preserving multilateralism and free trade and to boost economic growth and globalization.
RCEP is being negotiated among the ten ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. It is expected to be one of the world’s largest trading blocs, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population and around a third of the global GDP.
Premier Li, who arrived in Singapore on Nov 12, is scheduled to attend the 21st China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders’ meeting, the 21st ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders’ meeting and the 13th East Asia Summit during the five-day trip.
It is the first official visit to Singapore by a Chinese premier in 11 years.