ASEAN+6 trade bloc in the making

Click to enlarge

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) together with the group’s six major trading partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – are slated to begin the first round of negotiations to form the world’s largest economic bloc by 2015 amid the ASEAN Economic Community integration under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

In the first round of talks, ASEAN and free trade agreement partners will negotiate modalities and commitments for liberalisation, covering the trade in goods, services and investment. If achieved, the pact will cover more than 27 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.

The ASEAN+6 group includes 16 countries more than 3.3 billion people, has a combined GDP of about $17 trillion, and accounts for about 40 per cent of world trade. Core targets of the pact are integration into the supply chain, cross-border investment and an innovative environment, which will help strengthen the competitiveness of member countries.

The member countries will meet from February 26-28 in Bali, Indonesia, to kick off official negotiations on establishment of the RCEP. The talks were originally launched by leaders from ASEAN and ASEAN’s free-trade agreements partners on the margins of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November 2012.