Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The prolonging of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) may lead to a risk of losing the deal’s credibility, warned Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a meeting of leaders of 16 countries engaging in the RCEP in Singapore on November 14.

He noted that negotiations on the deal have made substantial progress this year and are poised for conclusion in 2019, he said, adding that the talks are on the final period.

However, he held that further prolonging negotiations puts the RCEP at risk of losing credibility and support from stakeholders and will mean missing a major opportunity to bring in tangible benefits to businesses and citizens of RCEP participating countries.

A total of 24 rounds of negotiations have been held on the RCEP since they were launched at the end of 2012.

Earlier, in a meeting in Singapore on November 12, the countries failed to reach consensus on major articles of the deal, and agreed to postpone the conclusion of negotiations in 2019.

The RCEP, a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN member states and six of their FTA partners - China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, is expected to be one of the world's largest trading blocs, accounting for 45 percent of the world population, 40 percent of global trade and one third of the world's GDP.-VNA