South Korea and 15 other countries will hold a fresh round of talks on a regional free trade agreement (FTA) in Myanmar this week amid stepped-up efforts to wrap it up by the year's end, officials here said Sunday.
The upcoming round of talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the ninth of its kind, will be held in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, from Monday through Friday, 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 remaining countries are Australia, New Zealand and India.
There are hopes for a major breakthrough in the latest round as the countries earlier agreed to conclude their negotiations before the end of the year.
The nations are still at the stage of setting a guideline or modality for market liberalization under the envisioned free trade pact, which needs to be followed by the 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 Seoul officials.
If signed, the RCEP will create an economic bloc, whose member countries will take up about 45 percent of the global population and more than 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product, according to the officials.