Ministers Apart in RCEP Talks; Accord before Year-End Tough

Economy Politics

Bangkok, Nov. 1 (Jiji Press)--Ministers from Japan, China, South Korea and 13 other states were apart in their talks on the envisioned Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on Friday, rendering it difficult for the nations to meet their goal of concluding the free trade talks by the end of the year.

At the day's meeting, held in Bangkok, the ministers discussed items to be included in a joint statement that would be adopted at a summit of the 16 nations slated for Monday in the Thai capital. But they were unable to find a middle ground in the sensitive field of tariff cuts and elimination, informed source said.

State minister of trade Hideki Makihara represented Japan at the session on behalf of trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama. "On some issues, I have to consult with my home government," Makihara said at a press conference, indicating that the ministerial meeting failed to strike an accord.

The ministers shared a direction of the leaders' statement. But they remained at odds over the wording for the document and other details, leading Thailand, the chair of the meeting, to cancel a press briefing slated after the session, "A decision will be left to the leaders," a source familiar with the negotiations said.

The RCEP would create an economic bloc accounting for about half of the world population, and some 30 pct of global trade value and gross domestic product. The 16 countries involved in the RCEP talks are Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations--Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

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