Singapore– The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was unable to conclude negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership during a summit in Singapore, postponing them till 2019, the Philippines Secretary of Trade and Industry said on Tuesday.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six Asia-Pacific states with which the regional bloc has existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) — namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“We are determined to finish everything by next year,” Ramon Lopez told reporters in Singapore, which is hosting the 33rd Asean Summit.

Lopez said that despite not having achieved their aim of sealing the agreement this time, significant advances had been made and delegates were in “the final stage of negotiations”, which began at the 2012 Asean summit in Cambodia, Efe news reported.

In 2017, Asean consisting of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, had a combined gross domestic product of $49.5 trillion or 39 per cent of the world’s GDP and had a population of 3.4 billion people.

The 33rd Asean summit kicked off in Singapore on Tuesday and will conclude on Thursday. (IANS)