HANOI, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal is expected to be signed at the end of this year, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi said on the sideline of the 26th Meeting of ASEAN Economic Ministers Retreat held in Vietnam's central city of Da Nang Wednesday.
According to Vietnam News Agency, ministers discussed plans and orientations for ASEAN countries to push the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations and commitment to signing the trade pact by the end of this year at a meeting chaired by Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.
"Among RCEP members, India has yet reached an agreement on opening up market with partner countries and it also has some domestic issues that need further discussion," the news agency cited Anh as saying, adding that the ministers discussed and proposed solutions for this issue at the meeting.
Upon discussions at the meeting, it is expected that the documentation for RCEP will be completed by May and the agreement will be signed by the end of this year, Lim said, noting that the signing of RCEP agreement is a crucial target and the ASEAN leaders set the goal to sign the agreement in 2020.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 ASEAN member states and the six FTA partners of the ASEAN -- China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The RCEP agreement aims to further expand and strengthen the value chain for the benefits of businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, as well as the interests of workers, producers and consumers. Once officially signed, it is expected to boost the region's future growth prospects and make a positive contribution to the global economy as well as act as a pillar supporting the multilateral trade system and promoting the development of regional economies.