SINGAPORE - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six other Asia-Pacific nations can hammer out a free trade agreement by next year, a Philippine official said Friday.
Once formed, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India will comprise one-third of the global economy and half of the world population, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
"I think we have a good chance of getting to a conclusion and coming up to an agreement by next year," said Lopez on the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit here.
ASEAN countries account for 20 percent of Philippine trade and with the RCEP, the ratio will increase to 50 percent, Lopez said. -- reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News