SINGAPORE Economic ministers representing members of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on Monday postponed the year-end target for reaching a substantial conclusion to the free trade deal, throwing its prospects into doubt.
The ministers on Monday gathered in Singapore hoping to resolve sensitive issues, including lowering tariffs, but they failed to reach an agreement. RCEP members are expected to continue the talks next year, but it is now unclear whether a deal can be reached.
We made significant progress [but] not the final conclusion, New Zealand agriculture minister Damien OConnor told reporters after Mondays meeting, adding that he hoped a conclusion would come next year.
Leaders of the RCEP countries will hold a summit on Wednesday in Singapore, where they are expected to commit to continuing the talks.
Japans trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, told reporters that the members closed some of the chapters at the meeting, saying that the discussions had gone as far as they could at the ministerial level.
Separately, Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters: We are very happy that Indias concerns have been taken on board, and we feel that we should conclude in a way that will be long-term sustainable so that every country will benefit from it.
RCEP is envisioned as a huge framework for e...