RCEP nations agree to conclude the deal this year (Source: EPA/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Countries engaged in negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have a “strong political will” to conclude the talks by the end of 2018, Singaporean Minister of Trade Lim Hng Kiang said.

The talks on the RCEP were launched in 2012 and are expected to create a free trade area with billions of consumers.

The ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is participating in the negotiations along with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

The RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which is expected to be signed on March 8 in Chile, offered “pathways” toward an eventual free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific, said Lim.

With the signing of the CPTPP, one of the pathways will become operational, Lim said, following a two-day meeting of ASEAN economic ministers.

The RCEP participating countries are conscious that they should try and conclude the RCEP negotiations so that all the Asia-Pacific economies can participate, he commented.

The RCEP is considered an extended trade agreement of the ASEAN nations and their partners, which together account for 50 percent of the global population and 39 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).-VNA