KOBE, Japan -- A five-day round of negotiations to promote trade partnerships in Asia began in Kobe, western Japan, Monday morning.
Members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will discuss 13 areas, including intellectual property, service trade and the removal of tariffs, seeking to reach agreement as soon as possible.
This is the first time negotiators from the 16 RCEP countries, including Japan, China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have gathered since U.S. President Donald Trump officially announced his country's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
"We should be fully aware of recent developments in the global economy, the still subdued economic prospects, coupled with an increasing rise in protectionist sentiments," said Indonesia's Iman Pambagyo, the RCEP trade negotiating committee chief, during his opening remarks.
"Anyone's issue is our collective issue. We have to work together to accommodate concerns and find a global solution," Iman added.
The first round of talks took place in 2013, with the goal of establishing common trade rules in a total of 15 areas. Members initially expected to complete the negotiations by 2015, but progress has been slow, due to gaps between the likes of Japan, which is pushing for a comprehensive agreement, and countries that are less keen on trade liberalization, such as China and India. They have so far reached agreement in only two areas -- small and midsize enterprises and economic cooperation.
What is RCEP?
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a free trade agreement first proposed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. RCEP is made up of 16 Asia-Pacific countries -- the 10 ASEAN member states along with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea -- which represent roughly half the world's population and around a third of global trade.
Negotiations began in 2013, with the aim of setting rules governing 15 areas of cooperation, such as tariffs, investment, e-commerce, intellectual property and trade facilitation.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership in limbo following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out, RCEP is gaining prominence as one of the world's biggest multilateral trade initiatives. But the deal does not include the U.S.