16 Asia-Pacific nations discuss tariffs at 3rd round of free trade talks

Sixteen Asia-Pacific countries began their third round of free trade talks Tuesday, with tariff-related issues on the agenda.

Negotiators from the 10 ASEAN member states and their six regional partners -- Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea -- will hold working group meetings on trade in goods, trade in services, and investment during their four-day gathering.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework negotiations are aimed at creating one of the world's largest free trade areas encompassing almost 30 percent of global gross domestic product, half of the world's population and over a quarter of world exports.

China's chief negotiator Sun Yuanjiang, in his opening remarks as "facilitator" of the six non-ASEAN countries, said, "We will try to work in very practical and efficient ways so that we can soon achieve our goal."

The RCEP negotiation partners aim to wrap up talks by 2015. They held their first round in May last year in Brunei and the second one in Brisbane, Australia, last September.

The six non-ASEAN countries in the negotiations already have FTAs with ASEAN, which is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The latest session comes after the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, led by the United States, missed a 2013 deadline for sealing a pact.