Negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a 16-nation trade deal that would include China, India and ASEAN, hit stumbling blocks during a conference in Singapore this week, with leading members China and Australia now aiming to finalise arrangements in 2019.
The RCEP would include nearly half of the world’s population, according to Bloomberg, but is experiencing resistance from some participants despite a push by others to close the deal this year.
“It will take a little bit longer to ensure that we get the type of substantial, meaningful, commercially meaningful market access decisions that Australia expects in a trade agreement,” said Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang also said he expected talks to be completed next year, saying “with the headwind of trade protectionism, free trade is facing some difficulties.”
RCEP is seen by some as a potential rival to the formerly US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Trump administration withdrew from in 2017. China’s dominance in RCEP, however, has raised concerns for some nations in the region.