SINGAPORE / MANILA (Reuters) – China is continuing to open its economy for rising protectionism, said Prime Minister Li Keqiang…
SINGAPORE / MANILA (Reuters) – China is continuing to open its economy for rising protectionism, said Prime Minister Li Keqiang when he arrived in Singapore on Monday for meetings with Asia and Pacific, which will focus on speeding up the work of a major new trade pact.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang attends a joint press conference with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (not formed) at the Beijing Public House on November 7, 201
8. REUTERS / Thomas Peter / Pool
Li’s remarks in an article in the Singapore Straits Times Newspaper came as Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for more regional integration and said that multilateralism was threatened by political pressures.
“China has opened its door to the world; we will never close it, but open it even bigger,” said Li in the article, calling for an “open world economy” for “rising protectionism and unilateralism.” He did not directly refer to China’s blue-tailed war with the United States.
Especially absent in this week’s meetings is US President Donald Trump, who has said that several existing multilateral trade agreements are unfair, and have shaken China over intangible theft, barriers to US companies and a gaping trade deficit.
Vice President Mike Pence will participate instead of Trump, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those who are also expected to join Li and the Tio Affiliates in Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sides of the meetings, which would be an introduction to a summit scheduled between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.
If that happens, the meeting would come on high-heeled conversations in Washington where the two sides moved their main differences but seemed to try to settle the damage to relationships that have deteriorated with the tit-to-tat tariffs in recent months.
Li said that China would “cooperate with all relevant parties to accelerate” the negotiations on regional economic cooperation (RCEP), which proves to be a free trade agreement that will cover more than one third of world GDP.
The package contains 16 countries, including ASEAN nations, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, but not the United States.
Regional diplomats said that a great deal of work had been done on the trade agreement, but it was not likely that it would be completed until next year.
“During the summit, leaders would express their commitment to enter into negotiations, as this is very important for the region, especially in view of rising trade tensions,” Junver Mahilum-West, a senior official in the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, told reporters last week .
The draft of a communiqué to be issued by RCEP nations later this week, as reviewed by Reuters, said the group would instruct “ministers and negotiators to work towards the full conclusion of the RCEP negotiations in 2019”.
Earlier, in a business meeting meeting on Monday before the week’s meetings, Singapore’s Lee said:
“ASEAN has great potential but fully realize it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated and work towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is split under political pressure “.
Lee has previously warned that the US-China trade war could have a “big negative impact” on Singapore, and the city central bank has warned that it could soon pull on the economy.
On Tuesday, ten members reached the ASEAN Group’s first e-commerce business to help increase cross-border transactions in the region.
Reporting by John Geddie in Singapore and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing Raju Gopalakrishnan
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