A cashew processing factory in Vietnam (Photo: VNA)

The ministers reached the consensus at a meeting that ended on March 10th in Manila, the Philippines.

Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez, who chaired the event, said the RCEP is believed to shape the future of trade and economic liberalisation in Asia.

The RCEP is a large-scale trade deal designed to expand and solidify commitments among the 10 ASEAN countries and six dialogue partners including China.

It is expected to expand ASEAN’s market from 600 million people to 3.5 billion people, accounting for almost half of the global population.

Talks on the agreement were launched in November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the initial goal is to finish negotiations before the end of 2015.

However, this deadline was missed and negotiations are set to be stepped up in 2017 with a view to signing this pact within this year.

At the meeting, the ASEAN ministers also agreed to support the bloc’s agreement on trade in services so as to promote the service sector’s transparency in the ASEAN Community./.