Leaders from Asia, global powers convene in Bangkok for East Asia Summit

Delegations from 18 countries will convene today in Bangkok for the 14th gathering of the East Asia Summit, where issues

east asia summit

Photo: Beawiharta Beawiharta/Reuters

Delegations from 18 countries will convene today in Bangkok for the 14th gathering of the East Asia Summit, where issues of Southeast Asian security and trade will be addressed.

Delegates are expected to finalise the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, which is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten ASEAN states and Japan, South Korea, India, China, Australia and New Zealand. Participants in this potential FTA account for a third of the world’s GDP.

China’s spearheading of the agreement, which is seen as its response to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) previously championed by the US, indicates Beijing’s level of sway on regional trade issues. China has lobbied hard for free trade in the region and has cited US reluctance to participate in FTAs as a strong opportunity for Southeast Asia to become more self-sufficient.

Unlike the CPTPP, which covered broad swaths of economic integration, RCEP is focusing on the standardisation of tariffs and tariff liberalisation. Delays over environmental and labour standards, corruption and intellectual property agreements could continue to slow the deal making process. However, trade barriers with the US have hurt many of the participating economies, providing an impetus to speed up negotiations.

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