under the chair of Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.

In his opening remarks, Minister Anh spoke highly of negotiators’ efforts since the beginning of the year, noting that in-depth meetings and discussions have been held online and on schedule throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

He affirmed that as ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam has been working closely with other member countries to maintain the bloc’s leadership and close cooperation with the six partners, to accelerate finalising the RCEP talks and the legal review of the deal’s wording so that it may be signed in Hanoi in November.

With the aim of achieving a high-quality agreement that balances all interests, Vietnam has actively engaged in discussions and proactively proposed flexible solutions in many areas so as to address differences among parties while still ensuring their own national interest, he added.

Participating ministers pointed out the unprecedented challenges facing global trade, investment, and supply chains due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Therefore, they said, it is necessary to enhance cooperation to promote strong and flexible economic recovery, along with sustainable, balanced, and comprehensive growth in the post-pandemic period.

Facing the pandemic and emerging trade protectionism, the officials reiterated their determination to sign the RCEP at the fourth RCEP Summit in November.

They shared the view that the deal being signed in 2020 would show that participating countries support a multilateral trading system and stronger economic integration among regional countries, thereby helping to resume economic activities and set up a “new normal” across the region.

Looking at India’s engagement in the RCEP, the officials held that the country has been an important party in negotiations, which began in 2012.

Its participation would contribute to progress and prosperity in the entire region, they said, stressing that the RCEP remains open for India to return.

Initiated by ASEAN in 2012, the RCEP is a free trade agreement among the ten member countries of the bloc and six partners - China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Once signed, it would create one of the largest free trade areas in the world./.VNA