An Asean plan to create a new free-trade zone consisting of 16 countries in the region was mooted over the weekend during the Asean Summit. The proposed East Asia Free Trade Area would cover half of the world’s population and account for one-third of global gross domestic product.

The proposed plan would cover Asean, three countries in East Asia, along with Australia, New Zealand and India. If the plan is realised, economic ties among countries in East Asia and the Pacific should be strengthened.

“What we are seeing now is a couple of ideas on having a more integrated market in terms of trade and investment in the region,” Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kadama was quoted as saying after the East Asia Summit in Cha-am over the weekend.

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The East Asian Free Trade Area is designed to boost regional trade, especially with the US and the European Union – the traditional markets of many countries in the region – being so severely affected by the global economic recession.

The East Asian Free Trade Area is also a step further on the road to a regional trade agreement as the Asean single market is set to be effective from next year. Under this plan, Asean will fully implement a free-trade agreement among the original members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

via Free-trade zone plan must bridge disparities – Nationmultimedia.com.

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