RCEP trade ministers meet in Bangkok

Ministers from 16 countries negotiating for an Asia-wide trade pact met Saturday in Bangkok for another round of talks, with host Thailand characterizing the meeting as "very tough and serious."
A senior Thai trade official said that Singapore was critical of India, which has been accused of stalling progress in the negotiations. A joint statement was notably not issued after the meeting.
"The meeting was very serious in the afternoon. They had almost banged the table," another official said.
Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said the meeting is very crucial for all 16 countries to find an agreement so that the RCEP leaders can announce the accomplishments at their summit in November.
Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara told a press conference after the meeting that while progress was made in a number of areas, some points of debate remain to be settled.
As for whether the negotiations can be concluded within the year as planned, Sugawara said, "It depends on whether a solution can be found for difficult issues in the remaining period."
Prior to the meeting, Sugawara met with his Australian, New Zealand, and Indian counterparts to seek cooperation.
RCEP, covering a third of the global economy, has a history of missed deadlines with varying degrees of ambition among the members that include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Talks began in 2013 and the initial goal was to wrap them up in 2015.
They are negotiating in 18 areas including the abolishment of tariffs on goods such as industrial products, trade in services, intellectual property rights, economic and technical cooperation, and legal and institutional issues.
RCEP groups Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, as well as the 10 ASEAN countries -- Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand plus TPP members Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

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