The 16 Asia-Pacific countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on Monday began a new round of meetings in Japan with an aim to build a free trade area to substitute the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The participating nations — which include Asia’s four largest economies (China, Japan, India and South Korea), along with Australia and New Zealand — will hold the first meeting since the US opted out of the TPP, Efe news reported.

The 16 countries, including seven TPP signatories, aim to conclude the negotiations, which started in 2013, as soon as possible, Japanese government officials said.

For the TPP to come into effect, it needs to be ratified by countries that represent at least 85% of the bloc’s total economy, of which the US alone accounts for 60%.

The RCEP brings together the ten countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia — and Australia, South Korea, India, Japan, New Zealand and China.

For now, the 16 participants have reached accords on matters, such as technological cooperation and information exchange between small and medium-scale enterprises.

The new round of talks will focus on deregulation of investments and trade in services and will continue until March 3.

First Published | 27 February 2017 4:43 PM
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