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Duterte supports trade pact backed by China

By: Genalyn D. Kabiling

In a bid to spur inclusive regional growth and stand up against protectionism, President Duterte has endorsed the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact over the United States-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal which he claimed was a “dream that was no longer there.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte addresses the Grand Celebration and closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Anniversary and ASEAN Ministerial Meetings held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on August 8, 2017. (photo by Richard V. Vinas)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte addresses the Grand Celebration and closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Anniversary and ASEAN Ministerial Meetings held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on August 8, 2017. (photo by Richard V. Vinas)

At the closing ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, the President called for the swift conclusion of the proposed free trade pact between the Southeast Asian nations and their trading partners to promote economic prosperity “enjoyed by all.”

“We must take a serious look at the economic integration. 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,” Duterte said during the event that coincided with the 50th ASEAN anniversary celebration.

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP will provide further impetus to our efforts,” he said.

Duterte said negotiations on the RCEP must conclude swiftly as decided by its leaders in 2016.

The President then took a swipe at the supposed weakening of the TPP, a trade deal pushed by then US President Barack Obama but was opposed by his successor Donald Trump. “I was reminded that the Trans-Pacific, it was a dream that was no longer there,” he said.

The RCEP and TPP have been widely perceived as rival trading blocs.

At present, RCEP includes the 10 ASEAN members and six dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. If approved, it would create one of the world’s largest free trade zones. The RCEP countries make up 46 percent of the global population and worth 24 percent of global gross domestic product.

The TPP, on the other hand, includes 11 countries, including Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Before the pullout of the US, the TPP would have covered 40 percent of the global economy.

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