RCEP needs to be more than a trade deal

Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership have come a long way, and could be wrapped up as early as next month. (File photo)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is well on its way to becoming a global leader for regional integration and an important step in this process is fast approaching its deadline.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, which were to have been substantially concluded at the end of 2015, will now enter the 18th round in May.

Launched in November 2012, the agreement aims to deepen economic integration between the 10-member Asean group and its six official dialogue partners: Australia, China, India, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand.

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