ASEAN nations pledge to sign mega trade deal in 2020
Bangkok, Nov. 4 (IANS/PTI): The 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were ready to sign in 2020 a mega trade deal, which if executed, would create the world’s largest trading bloc, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced on Monday.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which has been primarily driven by China and would bring together almost a third of the global GDP, includes Australia, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN members Myanmar Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, reports Efe news.
In his opening remarks at a meeting between the regional bloc and China, South Korea and Japan within the framework of the ongoing ASEAN summit here, Prayuth announced that ASEAN members have concluded their negotiations and were ready to sign the treaty next year.
The RCEP negotiations were formally initiated at the 2012 ASEAN summit in Cambodia.
It covers a population of 3.4 billion people, 47 per cent of the world’s population, and involves a GDP worth $22.6 trillion (32.2 per cent of the world’s GDP).
The agreement also brings together 29 per cent of current world trade and 32.5 per cent of global investment.
Despite the impressive numbers of the mega deal, negotiations have been slow and complicated.
In the last five years, leaders of the member countries have repeatedly insisted that they were close to reaching an agreement, only to postpone it further.
Trump invites ASEAN leaders to US meet after skipping summit
President Donald Trump has invited Southeast Asian leaders to a “special summit” in the United States early next year after skipping their annual summit.
Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser Trump sent in his stead, included the invitation in a letter from Trump that he read at a U.S.-ASEAN meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the outskirts of Thailand’s capital.
That meeting normally would be attended by presidents or prime ministers. But since O’Brien is not even a member of Trump’s Cabinet, seven of the 10 ASEAN countries sent their foreign ministers instead in what appeared to be a pointed adherence to diplomatic protocol.
O’Brien made a swipe at China, accusing it of intimidating ASEAN members.