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International relations

Southeast Asian ministers seek RCEP trade pact by year-end

ASEAN pushes ahead with greater customs and banking integration

Vendors await customers at a Hanoi market. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are ramping up efforts to finalize a regional trade pact.   © Reuters

CHIANG RAI, Thailand -- Finance ministers and central bankers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will push to finalize an Asian trade megadeal by the end of this year, according to a draft declaration for their Friday meeting here obtained by Nikkei.

ASEAN leaders had hoped to reach agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership -- a 16-country trade pact that also includes Japan, China and India -- sometime last year. But India's resistance to scrapping tariffs and other roadblocks stood in the way, and they gave up on this goal at a November summit in Singapore.

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