South Korea and 15 other countries will hold a fresh round of talks on a regional free trade agreement in Myanmar next month amid stepped-up efforts to wrap it up by year-end, officials here said Tuesday.
The upcoming round of talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the ninth of its kind, will be held in Naypyidaw on Aug. 3-7, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The RCEP negotiations involve South Korea, Japan, China and all 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The rest are Australia, New Zealand and India.
The latest round comes amid hopes for a major breakthrough as the countries earlier agreed to conclude their negotiations before the end of the year.
"There is a sense of urgency for a deal among the participating countries as they have set a deadline for negotiations at the end of the year," Deputy Trade Minister Woo Tae-hee told a regular press briefing.
"The countries are making considerable efforts to move their negotiations forward," he added.
Woo, however, noted the countries were still at the stage of setting a guideline or modality for market liberalization under the envisioned free trade pact, which need to be followed by a possibly more strenuous process of drawing up a list of products to be liberalized for each country taking part in the multilateral negotiations.
Apparently reflecting the sense of urgency for a deal, the new round of RCEP negotiations will be followed by a special meeting of the countries' trade ministers in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 24.
Also, the 10th round of RCEP talks is already scheduled to be held in South Korea in October, according to Woo.
If signed, the RCEP will create an economic bloc whose member countries account for about 45 percent of the global population and more than 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, the trade ministry has said. (Yonhap)