Moon leaves for Singapore to take part in ASEAN summits

Frederick Owens
November 14, 2018

Despite the the failure to achieve a region-wide trade pact, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said trade ministers had reached "the final stage of negotiation".

"It will take a little bit longer to ensure that we get the type of substantial, meaningful, commercially meaningful market access decisions that Australia expects in a trade agreement", Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham told reporters in Singapore yesterday.

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the U.S. at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump's "America First" agenda.

"It (RCEP) is going to deliver real benefits to the people of our region", he said, without giving a date.

The spokesman even said he found it "amusing" that "some quarters" appear to be "making a big fuss" of Duterte's non-appearances.

China's Li is expected to rally support at the Singapore meetings for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade pact that will encompass more than a third of the world's GDP.

Both US and China committed to supporting peace and stability in the South China Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in accordance with worldwide law during the dialogue, it added.The US takes no sides in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea but has expressed interest in the peaceful settlement of the rival claims.

China was now the standard bearer of global free trade, he added, with the 16-member RCEP deal at the heart of its strategy.

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"Despite new frontier challenges that we are facing, we must also be alert and firm with fundamentals such as good governance and the fight against corruption, without which, the cost of doing business in our region will escalate and will undermine our economies regardless of all the latest megatrends that we successfully embrace", he said.

"ASEAN and China will continue to maintain a conducive environment for future rounds of negotiations of the COC", said the co-chair of the COC negotiations. "Trade actions contrary to this benefit no one and only threaten the prospects of economic growth", he added.

But New Delhi's delegation welcomed the incremental steps towards the establishing the trade agreement.

Several general elections scheduled early next year - including in India, Thailand and Indonesia - have complicated the timeframe of a deal that will open markets in countries covering almost half the world's GDP.

Trade and maritime issues are expected on the agenda at the ASEAN summit in Singapore.

But the momentum must be in the direction of more, not less, open trade, said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

"In important gatherings of the ASEAN members with dialogue partners, such as where Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the group, the President attended and expressed the country's sentiments and stand vis-a-vis the three aforesaid leaders' remarks", he said.

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