SINGAPORE, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- China expects to finalize negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2019, Premier Li Keqiang said Tuesday when delivering a speech here at the 44th Singapore Lecture.
"We are going to announce the completion of the substantial negotiations on RCEP and the entry into the final stage at this meeting, and China hopes to conclude the RCEP negotiations next year," Li said, referring to the second RCEP leaders' meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
China, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other parties have spent six years negotiating an economic integration agreement, which covers about half of the world's population, he said.
In the context of rising protectionism and setbacks for free trade, advancing the WTO rules-based RCEP would not only benefit people in the region, but also send the world a strong signal of upholding and promoting free trade, Li said.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN members and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has free trade agreements -- Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Li started his official visit to Singapore on Monday. This is the first visit by a Chinese premier to Singapore in 11 years.
During the visit, Li will also attend the 21st leaders' meeting between China and ASEAN and the 21st ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea leaders' meeting, respectively known as 10+1 and 10+3, as well as the 13th East Asia Summit.