China and its partners participating in the negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement are expected to conclude the talks within this year, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Assistant Minister of Commerce Li Chenggang said since the 27th round of RCEP talks held in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province, has made notable progress in many aspects between July 22 and 31, it will be conductive for the upcoming RCEP ministerial meeting to gain more consensus in Beijing from Friday to Saturday,
More than 700 representatives from 16 countries including member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, Australia and India attended the 27th round of RCEP talks and they reaffirmed the goals reached during the second RCEP leaders' meeting in Singapore last November.
The parties held a plenary session of the Trade Negotiation Committee and parallel sessions of working groups on trade in goods, trade in services, investment, rules of origin, trade remedy, finance, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, e-commerce and laws and mechanisms.
As many parts of the world are dealing with unilateral actions and protectionism, Lu Pengqi, vice-chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said China has been an active participant in the RCEP negotiations, and is willing to play an active and constructive role in accelerating the talks.
He said China is taking a series of major reform and opening-up measures, strengthening institutional and structural arrangements, and promoting a higher level of opening-up, which will generate new growth momentum for China to better deepen trade ties with other partners within the bloc.
If the RCEP deal can be sealed sooner or later, it will create one of the world's largest trading blocs, accounting for 45 percent of the world population, 40 percent of global trade and around one-third of the world's GDP.
Launched in 2012, RCEP is expected to boost trade and economic integration among ASEAN members and its six trading partners - China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Since the China-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Vision 2030 was adopted in 2018, Li from the Ministry of Commerce added that China will continue to enrich the development of the Belt and Road Initiative and enhance bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade, infrastructure development, big data and financial services with ASEAN economies.
The 10-member ASEAN became China's second-largest trading partner, after the European Union, in the first half of 2019, overtaking the United States for the first time since 1997.
Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN amounted to $291.85 billion in the first half of this year, up 4.2 percent year-on-year, and the two-way investment totaled $205.71 billion by the end of 2018, data from the Ministry of Commerce show.
"Against the backdrop of rising protectionism, China and ASEAN, both exporting a large amount of manufacturing goods, agricultural and commodity products to global markets annually, have been staunchly upholding a rules-based multilateral trading system and earnestly promoting regional integration," said Li Yong, deputy director of China Association of International Trade Expert Committee.
Eager to diversify their commercial ties, China will hold the 16th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, from Sept 20 to 23.