(L-R) Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc join hands to pose for photos during the opening ceremony of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok on June 23, 2019.
AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha
ASEAN agrees to finish free trade deal; Duterte wants US and China to take 'high road' in trade war
(Philstar.com) - June 23, 2019 - 7:24pm

MANILA, Philippines— The ten leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday agreed to conclude the proposed free trade agreement between the ASEAN and India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

In their vision statement on partnership for sustainability, the ASEAN leaders concurred to exercise “maximum flexibility” to complete the FTA this year.

READ: FULL TEXT: ASEAN leaders’ vision statement on partnership for sustainability

The leaders agreed to “exert strong political impetus to conclude a modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that will generate benefits for the region, urge the exercise of maximum flexibility by all 4 RCEP Participating Countries.”

According to a report from the AFP, the China-led trade pact RECP is “seen as a mechanism for China to draft the rules of Asia-Pacific trade, following a US retreat from the region as it withdrew from another trade pact at the start of President Donald Trump's administration.”

Duterte urges US, China to 'take the high road'

President Rodrigo Duterte said in his intervention at the 34th ASEAN Summit plenary that the trade war between giant economies United States and China is “creating uncertainty” and “taking a toll on global growth.”

READ: FULL TEXT: Intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte during the 34th ASEAN Summit

He added that the trade war “could hinder the ongoing processes of economic integration.” 

He advised the two countries to take the “high road” and resolve their differences before the situation goes out of control.

“And we in ASEAN must strengthen our support for a rules-based and open multilateral trading system,” Duterte said in his intervention.

“We must reject the zero-sum approach to international economic relations. In pursuit of growth, we should be partners not competitors. The Philippines therefore supports the ASEAN Single Window – a concrete initiative towards a seamless cross-border trade,” he added.

The Southeast Asian leaders, meanwhile, concurred “to intensify the ongoing efforts to conclude a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial RCEP this year.”

They are eyeing an FTA that “will uphold a global trade environment that is open, mutually beneficial, rules-based and inclusive.” —Rosette Adel

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