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US-China trade war accelerates formation of RCEP trade bloc

Thaiger

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The escalation of the trade war between China and the US might help push forward negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement.

RCEP, once formed, will be the largest trading bloc in the world.

Trade ministers from China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN member states met in Beijing last weekend for the latest round of RCEP. Ministers confirmed their commitment to concluding talks by the end of the year end and signing the agreement in 2020. They are all scheduled to meet in Bangkok next month to finalise the agreement.

The RCEP meeting was held amid an intensifying trade war as the US President Donald Trump announced additional tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese goods, triggering retaliatory measures from China. That’s spurred a war of words between Japan and South Korea as well as traditional trade partners and pathways are disrupted. The countries involved hope that RCEP may provide a forum for members to ease tensions and ensure smooth continuity of regional supply chains amid growing geopolitical tensions.

Negotiations on a total of seven chapters and three annexes have already been concluded, while remaining chapters or annexes near conclusion. Recently concluded annexes include telecommunications, financial and professional services.

Thailand’s Trade Negotiations Department Director General, Oramon Sapthaweetham, said the RCEP agreement should provide additional benefits to Thailand’s exporters, on top of existing free trade agreements.

For examples, Thai exporters should be able to ship more machinery, electrical appliances, plastics, chemicals, autos and parts, tires, fibre, apparel, tapioca and paper to other RCEP countries. Additionally, RCEP should lead to clearer trade and investment regulations.

The agreement should also encourage Thai investors to invest in other RCEP countries, in areas where Thailand has strong expertise, such as in construction, retail, health-related businesses as well as the movie and entertainment industries, especially in post-production and animation.

The new RCEP is intended to cover a wide range of issues from trade and investment to services, as well as new areas of business such as electronic commerce. Late last month, the Thai Cabinet gave trade negotiators a mandate to negotiate the intellectual property issue in RCEP.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

 

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ASEAN

ASEAN leaders speak about Saturday’s Myanmar summit

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Many leaders spoke after the ASEAN summit on Myanmar.

In Jakarta on Saturday, leaders of the ASEAN countries met to convince Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to work with them towards progress. Full cover from The Thaiger of what was discussed at the meeting can be found here. During and after the meetings, nation leaders and representatives voiced their concerns and goals regarding the crisis in Myanmar.

Tim Newton’s video assessment of what would happen at the meeting HERE.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was vocal in his calls for the creation of an ASEAN delegation to travel to Myanmar and assess the situation. He stressed that it was imperative for this special envoy to interact with all parties involved in the Burmese crisis, and not just the military.

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin, in step with other ASEAN leaders, issued a statement strongly calling for a stop to violence against civilians, and for the release of political detainees.

“The deplorable situation in Myanmar must stop immediately. Malaysia believes the killings and violence must end. All parties must urgently restraint from any provocations and actions that will perpetuate violence and unrest.”

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong believes that achieving peace in Myanmar is an uphill battle but remains hopeful.

“I’m sure that in implementing this, there’s a long way forward because there’s one thing to say you’ll cease violence and release political prisoners; it’s another thing to get it done. And to have an inclusive discussion in order to reach a political resolution is even harder still, but at least there are some steps forward which we can take. But I would say overall it has been a productive meeting, and it has pointed the next steps forward for us. If ASEAN had not met or had not been able to come to a conclusion on the matter, that would have been very bad.”

Singapore has been vocal in its call for the immediate release of political prisoners and an urgent stop to violence, sentiments PM Lee reiterated during the ASEAN leaders meeting. He believes that this is the first step to a resolution that must involve both the military junta and the National League for Democracy, the Burmese party led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi. The military has had an active role in Burmese politics for years, but the NLD has the support of the public needed to bring peace to the troubled country.

The Singaporean PM also expressed hope that Myanmar can return to peaceful government more quickly than the riots in 1989 which took more than 20 years to recover from, but he stressed that while Southeast Asian nations can offer support, the final resolution must be made by the Burmese themselves within the Myanmar border.

“I hope it doesn’t take as long this time, but I think it is going to be a difficult journey for them because a political reconciliation or resolution which is necessary is a very tough one to make. And we wish them well and we will do our part where we can be helpful.”

Philippines Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin agreed, asserting that Myanmar must find peace on its own before it devolves into civil war.

“This is what Myanmar must avoid: geographical, political, social and national disintegration into warring ethnic parts. Myanmar on its own must find peace again.”

The Secretary attended as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, similar to Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, decided against joining the ASEAN summit with other nation leaders, and sent a delegate in his place instead.

The National Unity Government, made up of deposed Myanmar lawmakers, complained of a lop-sided summit that allowed the Burmese military a seat, but no representation for the Burmese people. They issued a strongly-worded statement against their omission from talks.

“Meetings that contribute to a solution to the deepening crisis in Myanmar are welcome. Meetings that exclude the people of Myanmar but include murderer-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing … are unlikely to be helpful.”

Amnesty International released a similarly sharp statement before the meeting calling for a more forceful response to the Burmese military Junta, though the leaders at the ASEAN summit will likely be walking on eggshells to try to create open dialogue channels between Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries.

“The crisis initiated by a murderous and unrepentant Myanmar military has engulfed the country and will cause severe aftershocks — humanitarian and more — for the entire region. The Indonesian authorities are duty-bound to investigate Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar military officials who may join his delegation to Jakarta.”

SOURCE: Reuters, Bangkok Post, and Channel News Asia

 

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ASEAN

Summit: Burmese military open to ASEAN delegation visits

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Today's ASEAN summit in Jakarta.

Today’s ASEAN summit in Jakarta has yielded progress regarding the situation in Myanmar with Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing stating he’s not opposed to a special envoy being created and dispatched to Myanmar. The military leader also said he would consider several other steps proposed by the leaders of the Asian nations. With leaders or representation from most countries of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, today’s meetings carried high expectations to work towards some sort of resolution.

Members of the coalition at the summit requested six steps they want from the Burmese military, the first of which was for Burmese authorities to allow an ASEAN delegation to visit. They also called for a cessation of violence against unarmed civilians, allowing humanitarian aid across the borders and releasing the political prisoners taken since the February 1st coup.

The Burmese general said he heard the request of the ASEAN summit and would take into consideration the ones he thought were constructive. He also said he was not opposed to involvement from the Southeast Asian coalition including a visit and humanitarian aid. The next step is to plan the visits to Myanmar figuring out who will bring the aid and inspections and when.

General Min gave the gathered leaders his perspective on the events leading to the February 1st coup and the situation in Myanmar regarding demonstrators and civil unrest until now, along with his vision of the future of Myanmar. Leaders were reported to have each given their response directly and spoke about the meeting after the summit.

The National Unity Government, a coalition of ousted Burmese lawmakers, voice opposition to the meeting that included the brutal military leader, but no representation for the people of Myanmar, stating that with their exclusion, meetings were not likely to be successful. Security forces outside the summit, held at ASEAN Secretariat headquarters in Jakarta, monitored and broke up some small protests outside of the closed-door meeting as well. Amnesty International weighed in as well with a strong statement against the Burmese military junta.

“The crisis initiated by a murderous and unrepentant Myanmar military has engulfed the country, and will cause severe aftershocks — humanitarian and more — for the entire region.”

Some have called for Myanmar to be expelled from the ASEAN coalition but sentiment within the organisation leans towards engaging Myanmar to try to bring peace to Southeast Asia rather than alienating them. Today’s ASEAN summit was a cautious first step.

SOURCE: Channel News Asia

 

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ASEAN Summit on Myanmar – will it achieve anything? | VIDEO

Tim Newton

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Today the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will hold a special summit today to discuss the crisis in Myanmar. The meeting is being held at the current secretariat for the Bloc, in Jakarta.

There will be huffing and puffing, a group photo, a few grand-standing leaders shaking their fingers at the Burmese chiefs, and then everyone will go home.

And, as usual, ASEAN would have once again achieved precisely nothing.

Missing are the President of the Philippines and the Thai PM. They are both sending underlings, in the case of Thailand, the veteran foreign minister Don Pramudwinnai. When PM Prayut spoke with the Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday, he expressed “concern and worries” about the situation in Myanmar told him that he’d stay home to focus on the rise in Covid cases.

The Burmese Army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, conformed this week that he will attend… probably more about stumping up his credentials as the defect leader and getting some international recognition. How ASEAN can even provide a podium for this military thug is unconscionable.

The Thaiger’s Tim Newton has his thoughts on the Saturday Summit.

 

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