MANILA - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said on Tuesday that the bloc and its trading partners will try to finish talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement (FTA) next year.
In a statement, ASEAN leaders said there were breakthroughs in the RCEP negotiations this year, and they hope to deliver a free trade deal in 2018.
"We hereby instruct our Ministers and negotiators to intensify efforts in 2018 to bring the RCEP negotiations to conclusion, and resolve to ensure they have the necessary support to achieve this outcome," ASEAN said in a statement.
The regional bloc said that RCEP will need to consolidate the ASEAN's free trade agreements with its partners and build new economic linkages between ASEAN's partners that do not have FTAs with each other.
RCEP will cover ASEAN's 10 member-states and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.