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ASEAN, 6 partners to start free trade pact talks in November

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SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The first dialogues between the ASEAN economic ministers and their counterparts from ASEAN's Free Trade Agreement partners were wrapped up here on Thursday, agreeing to start negotiations on a new regional free trade area in November, said a joint media statement after the meeting.

The consultations were chaired by Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh. The statement said that the meeting made an important first step towards establishing a new regional free trade area in the form of a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

"The RCEP negotiations will be launched in November 2012," it said, adding that the RCEP is very significant to strengthen the region's economic architecture.The six partners are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

The ministers are also committed to making the RCEP a modern, high quality agreement, which will underpin and promote future growth, development and integration in the participating countries.

They said that the RCEP could potentially transform the region into an integrated market comprising over 3 billion people with a combined GDP of about 17.23 trillion U.S. dollars.

The ministers also noted the progress made in the RCEP Working Group on trade in goods and instructed officials to commence parallel work in the areas of trade in services and investment at the Working Group level as soon as possible.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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