Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China, Japan, and South Korea should accelerate the negotiations for a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) and achieve the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at an early date so as to promote the building of an East Asian economic community.

The RCEP is a negotiation between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as the six states with which ASEAN has FTAs. The goal of the agreement is to expand the economic development and facilitate trade among its members.

Among the first group are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, while the second group of FTA partners includes Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Once completed and in force, the RCEP will include 16 countries, which represent 45%of the world's population and add up to a third of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). South Korean President Moon Jae-in pointed out that the expansion of protectionism represents a threat to the economy, but also presents an opportunity for Japan, China and South Korea. "If we can find broader and more innovative ways to grow,” said Moon, “we can lead the world economic order."

Negotiations have been ongoing for 5 years.

For more about this agreement, read more on the Global Times and Kyodo News.