Called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, it is in essence a massive regional trade deal among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the six countries with which ASEAN has free trade agreements -- Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The RCEP negotiations were launched in May 2013 and were expected to be complete by the end of this year.
The declaration was made -- without India -- during the RCEP summit in Bangkok on Monday, according to the Industry Ministry. All participating countries agreed to make efforts to resolve the remaining issues so that India too can participate in the RCEP.
"Against the backdrop of a fast-changing global environment, the completion of the RCEP negotiations will demonstrate our collective commitment to an open trade and investment environment across the region," their joint statement read.
It went on, "We are negotiating an Agreement intended to further expand and deepen regional value chains for the benefits of our businesses, including small and medium enterprises, as well as our workers, producers, and consumers."
The RCEP will significantly boost the region's future growth prospects and contribute positively to the global economy, while serving as a supporting pillar to a strong multilateral trading system and promoting development in economies across the region, according to the document.
The 15 leaders reiterated the importance of the multilateral trading system, the RCEP, in the face of threats including protectionism.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org)