China calls for early conclusion of talks on free trade pact

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2019 (Xinhua) — Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai speaks at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties in Washington D.C., the United States, June 18, 2019. TO GO WITH “China-U.S. ties should not be defined by disputes, differences, says ambassador” (Xinhua/Ting Shen/IANS)

Bangkok, Nov 3 (IANS) Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Sunday pushed for an early conclusion of talks on a mega free-trade pact amid persisting doubts over the proposed multilateral agreement between 10 ASEAN countries and their six trading partners.

Li was speaking before the start of a bilateral meeting between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the sidelines of the annual summit of the regional bloc that will be held until Monday here, reports Efe news.

Leaders of the Southeast Asian countries and several other nations have gathered in the Thai capital for the annual summit to boost their partnerships with the regional bloc amid an unending trade dispute between the US and China.

Li highlighted the country’s high expectations about the 16-nation trade partnership that will cover almost half of the world’s population and bring together a third of the global GDP.

He hoped that the pact would be signed next year.

The agreement includes China, Australia, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand, and the 10 ASEAN countries – Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On Saturday, Philippine Minister of Commerce Ramon Lopez said the pact had the consensus of all countries except one.

So far, no bilateral meeting has been scheduled between the representatives of the US and China amid an ongoing trade dispute between the two countries that has negatively affected the global economy.

However, the two sides were expected to meet at the East Asia Forum on Monday.

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