MANILA, Philippines – Countermeasures against trade protectionism will be a central idea at a meeting among Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) ministers here in the Philippines, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Friday, Apri 28.
Lopez said on the sidelines of the ASEAN Prosperity For All Summit 2017 that the ministers are highly likely to issue a statement on the region’s stance against protectionism, defending the benefits of globalization and free trade.
“[It will be about] addressing protectionism, so that we (ASEAN) will be ASEAN, which are all talks for now, just rhetorics,” Lopez told reporters.
This comes as US President Donald Trump had said his adminstration is leaning towards protectionist policies, promising to bring jobs back to his country,
“There is a general statement on the benefits of integration. Yes, [we are] against protectionism. Any move to reverse the track towards globalization, it will be hard. Integration should push through, so trading as well as flow of goods and services will be easier,” he added.
RCEP inclusion in agenda
Trump has also killed Obama’s signature trade initiative in the region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – an arduously negotiated 12-country agreement.
Lopez said ASEAN ministers will also discuss their focus to join the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), after the US has shelved the TPP.
“RCEP inclusion is in the agenda. At the trade negotiation level, everybody is working to bring the discussion forward. There could be about two more meetings among ASEAN before Novermeber. so hopefully [talks] will speed up,” the Philippine trade minister said.
While the RCEP and TPP are often depicted as rival trading blocs, both are said to have significant income benefits. (READ: Philippines shopping for ‘nice’ China-funded infra deals)
The RCEP includes the ASEAN-10, in addition to China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand – the countries with which the ASEAN already has free trade agreements.
As the world’s first pan-Asia free trade deal, the RCEP boasts a list of impressive statistics, like covering almost 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and roughly half of the world’s population.
But its scope is more limited than that of the TPP.
The TPP would create the world’s largest free trade area comprising 40% of the global economy.
The TPP originally included 12 participants: the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and New Zealand plus 4 ASEAN members—Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei. – Rappler.com
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