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Thailand to push for ASEAN+6 pact

Thailand will push ahead with Asia-Pacific partners in launching a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at next week's Asean and related summits in Phnom Penh.

The 10 members of Asean plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand would participate in the planned free-trade scheme, Asean Department director-general Arthayudh Srisamoot said yesterday.

The RCEP would comprise a combined market of some 3.35 billion people and countries that shared 27.3 per cent of the world's trading value in 2010.

Negotiations for the RCEP will begin next year and are expected to be completed by the end of 2015 to establish a free-trade scheme covering goods, services and investment in the region, he said.

As regards free trade with countries in East Asia and the Pacific, the scheme will be based on the existing free-trade pacts that Asean has with partner countries in the region to broaden and deepen engagement with significant improvements, he said.

If successful, the scheme would strengthen economies in the region, where there has been dynamic growth in the past several years, Arthayudh added.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will also push the Asean plus Three Partnership on Connectivity at the meeting next week with leaders from Asean plus China, Japan and South Korea, the official said.

Leaders of the 13 countries will issue a statement on Asean plus Three Connectivity after the meeting in Phnom Penh, Arthayudh said, adding that it will be a basic document for Asean's linkage with the three East Asian partner nations.

Under the plan, China will emphasise infrastructure development to link with countries in Asean. Japan wants to have trade, investment and travel facilitated in the region, while South Korea wants to stress sustainable development and clean energy in its cooperation with Asean, he said.

Asean itself will benefit from Asean plus Three Connectivity at very least from the angle of having more resources for its development, he said. It is expected that the three partners from East Asia will pump more capital into the Asean Infrastructure Development Fund.

Meanwhile, Yingluck will have a bilateral meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein on the sidelines of the Asean summit to follow up on cooperation on the Dawei special economic zone and related projects.

The two countries want cooperation on the Dawei special economic zone to be a model for cooperation among Asean members to build up the Asean community.

Thailand and Myanmar will later issue a joint statement on the matter.

As a gesture of cooperation, Arthayudh said Thailand would offer a gas turbine to Myanmar for electricity generation, which would enable the country to increase its power supply for the business city of Yangon, the former capital.

Asean leaders at the summit will discuss and endorse implementation of the Asean Connectivity Master Plan, as well as the Asean Human Right Declaration, which reflects the political commitment of the group to promote and protect human rights.

The summit will also appoint a new secretary-general to replace Surin Pitsuwan, whose term expires at the end of the year.

Vietnam's deputy foreign minister, Le Luong Minh, will be nominated as the next chief of the regional groupIng.


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