Senior diplomat says China, ASEAN push ahead with free trade area talks

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continue talks on a third version of a free trade agreement at an ASEAN summit in Jakarta , the Indonesian capital, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Thursday.

Wang, who attended the forum with foreign ministers from several countries, said: “Both sides are actively promoting the negotiation of version 3.0 of the free trade area and pushing for the full implementation of RCEP.” .

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is the largest China-backed trading bloc in the world. It entered into force on January 1, 2022 and brings together 15 Asia-Pacific economies, including Australia and Japan, as well as the 10 ASEAN member states.

RCEP, seen as an alternative to the US-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), covers almost a third of the world’s population.

“We will continue to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership with ASEAN,” Wang said.

He said it would create “a more powerful strategic environment for the development and revitalization of both sides as well as for the long-term peace and stability of the region.”

Earlier at a China Customs press briefing, spokesperson Lv Daliang said, “China and ASEAN are each other’s biggest trading partners, with a solid foundation of cooperation and Huge development potential, with the deepening of regional economic integration, the continuous expansion of areas of cooperation, and the continued smooth trade exchanges, bilateral trade is expected to continue to maintain a good trend.”

According to customs data on Thursday, the value of bilateral China-ASEAN trade reached 447.3 billion U.S. dollars in January-June, down 1.5 percent year on year.

(Reporting by Liz Lee and Ellen Zhang; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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