Singapore's trade minister said on Saturday that broad agreement on the world's biggest trade deal should be reached at a summit of leaders from participating nations in the city-state in November, six years since talks began.
Called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the trade accord includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the world's No.2 economy, China.
The deal does not include the United States, which is locked in a trade spat with China and pulled out of another broad, international trade agreement in 2017 called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The White House said on Friday that US President Donald Trump would skip the November gathering of leaders in Singapore.
Asked by Reuters after a meeting of regional economic ministers if participating countries were working towards a deal in time for the mid-November summit, Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing said:
“Yes. We are looking for that broad agreement, that milestone, to be achieved ... when the leaders meet at the end of the year.”
However, he said it was not clear when a final deal would be signed.
“As to the next phase of the work, once we have crossed that milestone we will have a clearer idea ... It's a bit too early to say at this point in time,” Sing said.