ASEAN leaders support the negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to be concluded within this year, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday told a press conference at the conclusion of the 34th ASEAN Summit held in Bangkok.

The RCEP will help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) manage change and uncertainty in the region, especially as regards to the trade friction between "ASEAN's important trading partners".

He also described the RCEP as a tool to boost trade and economy in the region.

In the Chairman's Statement of the 34th ASEAN Summit released on Sunday, ASEAN leaders said they "reiterated our strong commitment to concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations within 2019 to reinvigorate international trade and to maintain ASEAN credibility and centrality."

They also urged the RCEP ministers and officials to redouble their efforts to reach this target and called for relevant ASEAN partners to prioritize the RCEP negotiations and to work with ASEAN to conclude the RCEP negotiations within this year.

The RCEP, a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 ASEAN member states and six of their FTA partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, is expected to be one of the world's largest trading blocs, accounting for 45 percent of the world population, 40 percent of global trade and around one third of the world's GDP. The talks on the RCEP was launched in 2012.

As Thailand being Chair of ASEAN for 2019, the 34th ASEAN Summit was held in Bangkok from Saturday to Sunday. Besides the plenary sessions and the retreat of the summit, the Special ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting on the RCEP was also held during this summit.

Source: China � ASEAN Business Council