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Push for huge free trade agreement by 2015

New Zealand Herald

Push for huge free trade agreement by 2015

By Audrey Young

21 November 2012

A new giant Asian free trade negotiation was launched last night at the end of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, with a goal to complete the deal by the end of 2015.

The same day, countries in the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership talks at the summit met and set an informal deadline of the end of 2013 to complete their 11-country deal.

New Zealand is part of both trade talks and Prime Minister John Key attended both.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is being driven by Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which hosts the East Asia summit.

The 16 countries involved in RCEP, the 10 Asean countries plus China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen launched it in Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace in front of the leaders of the 16 countries and hundreds of officials and ministers.

He said there was no doubt that the comprehensive economic partnership would become a modern, high quality agreement aimed at transforming the region into an integrated market of over 3 billion people with a combined gdp of $US19.78 trillion based on 2011 figures.

"The launch of the RECP negotiations comes at a crucial time when the global financial and economic situation remains uncertain, especially when the economic situation of many developing countries remains fragile."

He said East Asia was considered the engine of global growth.

"We therefore have to jointly maintain this momentum by ensuring that our markets are kept open and continuously enhance the competitiveness even in the most challenging times."

Mr Key said later that the deal offered New Zealand the opportunity for the first time to negotiate a free trade deal with Japan.

He said it would complement New Zealand’s existing free trade deals in Asia.