Moon leaves for Singapore to take part in ASEAN summits

15 November, 2018, 09:16 | Author: Donnie King
  • Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan expects a very packed and intense week as Singapore hosts its final key event as Asean chairman

"Everything's been excellent between China and the rest of Asean, except for the fact that there's friction between Western nations and China", he said as he headed into the summit.

Countries across the region, many of which have relied heavily on trade to grow their economies, are responding with strong talk about free trade.

Among issues on the agenda for ASEAN and other leaders attending meetings in Singapore this week, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, are talks on a new regional trade pact that would commit member countries and others in the Asian-Pacific region to opening markets further.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday skipped most of the events on the second day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore, as Malacañang cited the 73-year-old chief executive's need to rest after dealing with a "punishing schedule".

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering half the world's population, is billed as an antidote to Donald Trump's "America First" agenda, which has seen tariffs imposed on nearly half of all Chinese imports to the United States - and retaliatory levies by Beijing. "It is now that we must continue to expand our intraregional trade and deepen the economic integration within ASEAN".

Trade tensions between the United States and China will create a "domino effect" and prompt other countries to turn protectionist, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. "This is not the time to close our doors by invoking trade protectionism measures but instead we should be actively engaged in finding amicable solutions", Mahathir said.

"We will not stand down." he said.

For a number of countries, this would be the first time working on a free trade agreement with each other, he added.

Trade diplomats said negotiations would run deep into 2019.

RCEP was given extra impetus after US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the rival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in early 2017.

"There is a big likelihood, and we even would like to have conclusion and signing by next year as well".

"We have found the way to properly manage and defuse differences, for example, on the issue of the South China Sea in the past years", Li said, adding that the situation was moving toward "greater stability" with progress toward a single draft text on a code of conduct in the sea.

"The future lies in RCEP", Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters, but urged a cautious and patient approach to talks to ensure "every country will benefit from it".

The ASEAN summit, which formally opened Tuesday afternoon, is expected to sweep in trade, maritime disputes and the Rohingya crisis.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad broke ASEAN's normally cordial protocols by telling reporters Aung San Suu Kyi was "defending the indefensible" by not speaking up for the Rohingya - hundreds of thousands of whom were driven into Bangladesh in a bloody purge a year ago.

Amnesty International on Monday stripped Suu Kyi of its highest honour, citing her "indifference" to the atrocities committed by Myanmar's army against the minority.


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