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India urged to return to Asia-Pacific free trade talks

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrive on stage to pose for a group photo during the 2nd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit (RCEP) on the sidelines of the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Singapore on Nov 14, 2018. AFP

Ministers from 15 Asia-Pacific countries negotiating a sprawling free trade agreement urged India on Wednesday to return to the talks as they are aiming to sign a deal by the end of the year, a Japanese official said.

Asean groups Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Ministers from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia, China, New Zealand and South Korea also took part in the RCEP talks, which have a record of missed deadlines.

India, seeking safeguards amid concerns that opening up its market would raise its trade deficit with China, has skipped all negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework this year.

From Japan, Hiroshi Kajiyama, minister of economy, trade and industry, took part in the ministerial videoconference, the third this year and the first since August. This time, the ministers did not issue a joint statement.

RCEP is aimed at establishing common rules for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property. It will cover a third of global economic output and half of the world’s population if India is included.

Source: Bangkokpost

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