With possibility of trade war and protectionism growing, the South East Asian countries which constitute ASEAN bloc has resolved to work more closely with emerging powers like India and China.
Singapore Prime Minister said that the close cooperation is aimed at ensuring continued growth.
Addressing the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that regional economic growth was under threat because the political mood in many countries had turned against free trade.
He mentioned the recent trade tensions between the U.S. and China in particular are worrying.
It need be recalled that the U.S. and China have proposed tariffs of $50 billion on each other’s products.
It is in this context that the Prime Minister Lee said that new powers, including China and India, are growing in strength and influence thus opening up new opportunities for ASEAN member states.
He said that the group faces challenges closer to home as well, such as the Islamic State group, cybersecurity and strengthening a regional economic community.
The leaders also welcomed a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in as a first step toward reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Lee said that ASEAN was keen to conclude Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations this year. It is a proposed free trade agreement between ASEAN members and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
In addition to Singapore, the ASEAN members are Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.>