At ASEAN anniv, Duterte warns against protectionism

Pia Ranada
At ASEAN anniv, Duterte warns against protectionism
The Philippine President describes the Obama-led Trans-Pacific Partnership as a 'dream that [is] no longer there' under the Trump administration

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their partner countries to reject protectionist policies on the last day of ASEAN meetings being held in Manila. 

During his keynote speech at the celebration of the ASEAN’s 50th anniversary, Duterte also wistfully recalled the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal shepherded by former United States President Barack Obama which has now been shelved by President Donald Trump.

“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,” said Duterte on Tuesday, August 8 at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Addressing foreign ministers and senior officials, the President then spoke of the TPP as a dream that has not been realized.

“I was reminded that the Trans-Pacific [Partnership], it was a dream that [is] no longer there,” he added.

The TPP was a trade deal which 12 countries had signed up for in February 2016 to integrate their economies more, slash tariffs and other trade barriers, and harmonize economic regulations and policies in order to foster trade.

These countries included the US, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

The participation of the US was a critical part of the deal. But with Trump thumbing it down, the US is out of the picture, making the TPP, in the words of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “meaningless.”

Trump has been advocating for more protectionist policies in order to protect American jobs. He hs promised, for example, to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Duterte recalled the TPP as he was promoting ASEAN’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in which the ASEAN, as a bloc, entered into free trade agreements with Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

The RCEP, he said, “will provide further impetus to our efforts” at boosting the ASEAN economy and opening it up to the rest of the world.

Duterte urged the foreign ministers to “take a serious look at the economic integration” of the Southeast Asian region. 

The envisioned integration hopes to see the 10 ASEAN nations with harmonized trade regulations and economic policies, and less trade barriers.

Aside from economy, Duterte also spoke of other priorities of the region, including his personal advocacy against crime.

“We want a region that is secure, where our peoples can live without fear from the lawless elements and the debilitating effects of corruption and transnational crimes,” he said. 

The Philippine President also called for “mutual respect and understanding” between nations and for the “rule of law” to “reign supreme” in dealings between countries. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at