Published: Tue, November 13, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

State Counsellor off for four-day ASEAN Summit in Singapore

State Counsellor off for four-day ASEAN Summit in Singapore

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Rodrigo Duterte of The Philippines, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos.

"It's going to send a message to the worldwide community that we stand by free trade. with rising protectionism and strains on free trade, we need to advance the RCEP negotiations", Li said, in comments delivered at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Key world leaders including China's Li, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mike Pence - Donald Trump's number two - are also in Singapore for talks foreshadowed by the China-US trade war and its ripple effect on global economies, particularly in Asia.

"We must therefore work towards the swift conclusion of RCEP negotiations", the President said in his intervention during a working dinner with Asean leaders on Tuesday night.

In his speech, he said "the rise of trade protectionism, resurgent nationalistic movements and inward-looking policies" seemed to be emerging even among ASEAN nations.

Li's remarks in an article in Singapore's Straits Times newspaper came as Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for more regional integration, saying multilateralism was under threat from political pressures.

With the U.S. having pulled out of rival pact the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the RCEP is now the world's biggest trade deal.

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"The existing free, open and rules-based multilateral system which has underpinned ASEAN's growth and stability has come under stress", he said, adding that it was unclear if the global order would break up into rival blocs.

Li said that Beijing hoped a consultation with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea would be completed in three years, and that such an deal would bolster free trade.

PM Modi will attend the RCEP Summit to review the progress made on the negotiations presently underway to finalise the RCEP, a proposed free trade agreement presently being negotiated amongst 16 countries - 10 ASEAN member-states and India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

"In practice, China now has the capability to deny the Philippines access in the air or at sea to the islands and reefs it claims", he said.

In his maiden speech on the Asean platform after 15 years, the prime minister said what the regional grouping requires is a fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment cooperation that benefits countries of widely varying levels.

On Wednesday, Asean leaders and Chinese President Li Keqiang will meet during the Asean-China Summit to discuss concerns on regional issues and enhance cooperation among countries in the region.

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