14:08 | 04/03/2019 Global Economy
Trade ministers from 16 Asia-Pacific nations have agreed to intensify ongoing negotiations in order to conclude a proposed free trade pact by the end of this year.
The ministers wrapped up the latest round of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap on Saturday.
The participating countries included Japan, China and ASEAN member states.
The ministers agreed to advance working-level talks on less contentious issues, such as financial services.
Regarding the issues of contention, including the percentage of items that will be tariff-free, the ministers agreed to start speeding up negotiations this summer, as India and Thailand will hold elections during the first half of the year.
Japan's trade minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters that the ministers will meet again in August. He said he wants to play an active role in the negotiations in order to help conclude a comprehensive and high quality agreement within the year.