According to Secretary General of ASEAN Surin Pitsuwan Sixteen nations, home to roughly half the world's population, have agreed "in principle" to create a free trade area spanning Asia. He said trade ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand will press their leaders to start talks on the trade zone at a regional summit to be held in November.
Already, a ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership’ (RCEP) has been established and if the proposal for a ‘free trade area spanning Asia’ comes through it would transform the region - containing around 3.5 billion people - into an integrated market with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $23 trillion, a third of the world's current annual GDP said the Secretary General of ASEAN.
ASEAN which consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have already has five separate free trade agreements (FTAs) governing economic cooperation with the six partner countries.
According to Surin Pitsuwan it has been agreed, in principle, to strung together all these FTAs in existence into one. The pact will aim to eliminate trade barriers, create a liberal investment environment and protect intellectual property rights, according to the negotiation guidelines. This would make Asia stand up despite economic difficulties in other parts of the world.
However, there is no move from Sri Lanka towards joining such a partnership that would be beneficial to the country despite the economy in the country is confronted with crisis after a crisis.