ASEAN and its six partners, namely China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India (ASEAN+6) have begun their first round of negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

During the first 5-day round in Brunei from May 9, the 16 countries is scheduled to discuss the scope and method of RCEP negotiations. They aim to complete RCEP negotiations by 2015.

Apart from setting up a committee comprising of senior officials, ASEAN+6 will also establish working groups engaging in activities of exchanging goods, services and investment.

Once established, the RCEP will be one of the world’s largest free trade area with over 3 billion people, accounting for half of the global market and one third of the world economic output.

The negotiations for the RCEP were initiated by the ASEAN+6 leaders on the sidelines of the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia late 2012.

The second round of the negotiations is scheduled to take place in Australia in September.

The ASEAN countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.-VNA