Duterte Pushes China Backed Trade Pact On Asean's 50th Anniversary

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday dismissed the teetering Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal as “a dream that is no longer there” and threw his support behind a China-backed alternative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Speaking on the occasion of the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Duterte said the 10-member regional bloc must “take a serious look at the economic integration.”

“Asean has a bigger stake than any other part of the world in standing up against protectionism and securing the rules of the game in the international trade,” he said. “The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, would provide further impetus to our efforts. Negotiations should conclude swiftly as decided by RCEP leaders in 2016.”

The RCEP is currently being negotiated among the 10 Asean members, China, Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea.

The trade framework, which accounts for more than 3.5 billion people, or half the world’s population with 30 per cent of global gross domestic product and trade, is viewed as an alternative to the TPP deal, which is now uncertain after the withdrawal of the United States in January.

Duterte’s endorsement of the China-backed trade deal is a stark contrast to the stance of his predecessor Benigno Aquino, who favoured the TPP and expressed an eagerness to join it.

The TPP was signed in February last year by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam – covering around 40 per cent of the global economy.

US President Donald Trump announced in January the withdrawal of the world’s biggest economy from the TPP, championed by his predecessor Barack Obama, saying the pact would hurt American jobs.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed fears that China may take control over trade in the region through the RCEP.

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Source : http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2105971/duterte-pushes-china-backed-trade-pact-aseans-50th-anniversary

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