"All the member countries have asked Indonesia, as the coordinator country, to conclude the discussion of RCEP during the leadership of Singapore. Hence, we will make as maximum effort as possible to finalize the RCEP," Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita stated at Hotel Shangrila in Singapore on Saturday.
The six partner countries are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
The trade minister was in Singapore to lead the Indonesian delegation to the 16th meeting of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council as well as to accompany President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at various meetings held on the sidelines of the 32nd ASEAN Summit.
In response to the ASEAN`s request, Lukita remarked that Indonesia will make as maximum effort as possible to conclude the negotiations. However, all ASEAN member states must first reach an agreement to enable the regional block to have a unanimous bargaining power in its negotiations with the six partner countries.
"We will push them again. Once we have reached an agreement, ASEAN member states must not discuss it any longer. So, there must be ASEAN paper and ASEAN agreement first as ASEAN is the initiator of the RCEP," he remarked.
As a follow-up to the meeting, ASEAN plus six countries will convene a meeting in Japan in July 2018 to finalize the RCEP.
The 10 ASEAN member states have gradually adopted RCEP since the 21st ASEAN Summit held in Pnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2012 and started negotiating it in early 2013. The regional partnership is aimed at creating mutually beneficial economic relations between ASEAN and its trade partners.