Monday, 14 October 2019

Southeast Asian Leaders Throw Weight Behind China-led Trade Pact

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (6th from L) poses with (L to 5th L) Laos' Minister of Foreign Affairs Saleumxay Kommasith, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Myanmar's Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint, Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, (6th R to R) Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Philippines' Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Brunei's Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Erywan Yusof, Cambodia's permanent representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Kan Pharidh, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi during a bilateral meeting at the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on August 2, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [adding identity of Cambodia's permanent representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Kan Pharidh]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.
AFP – FILE
BANGKOK: Southeast Asian leaders gathered in Bangkok on Saturday determined to drive forward the world’s largest commercial pact, with the trade war between the US and China clouding the outlook for their export-led economies.

Disputes in the flashpoint South China Sea, Myanmar’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims and plastic pollution in the seas are also set to be discussed at the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, chaired by Thailand.

But trade will take centre stage with ASEAN leaders keen to hasten the signing of a China-drafted commercial deal covering around half the world’s population.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes all 10 ASEAN economies, plus India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

It is seen as a mechanism for China to draft the rules of Asia-Pacific trade, following a US retreat from the region.

Shortly after his election, President Donald Trump pulled the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — which would have been the world’s largest trade deal — slamming it as an American “jobkiller”.

While tit-for-tat tariffs between the world’s biggest two economies have seen some manufacturers flee China to safer ASEAN hubs, economists say the big picture for global growth is bleak.

In that context, “RCEP is key to increasing trade volume”, Thai government spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak told reporters.

“The faster it (RCEP) gets implemented the better,” Martin M. Andanar, Philippines Communications Secretary, told reporters.

“Free trade is definitely what we need here in this region,” he said, adding that the US-China trade row has resulted in “the entire world catching a cold”.

Progress on the deal has stuttered in recent months with India digging in over fears cheap Chinesegoods could flood its massive consumer market.

Australia and New Zealand have also raised concerns over a lack of labour and environmental safeguards.

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