News / Asia

Asian Leaders Discuss Vast Free Trade Region

Irwin Loy
Asian leaders say they will launch negotiations into what could become a massive free trade area. On Tuesday, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to launch discussions on a possible free-trade zone that could link its economies with those of China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

ASEAN leaders officially launched negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, during the last day of the leaders' summit in Cambodia Tuesday. By seeking to link major economies including China and India, with those of Southeast Asia, the move could be a step toward creating a significant, new trading bloc.

Although human rights issues and maritime disputes have been topics of discussion during these meetings, regional leaders have sought to put the spotlight on trade.

China has recently taken a renewed interest in pushing forward with talks for the initiative. Observers say this could be a reaction to the ongoing U.S. strategic "pivot" toward Asia.

Since the United States does not have a free trade agreement with ASEAN, it is not eligible to join talks on RCEP.  Instead, Washington is pursuing a separate free trade area called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. That formation does not include China.

"I think it's very important," said Ernie Bower, who is with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's extremely important right now because it's our only current trade engagement with Asia in terms of a new agreement. So we have FTAs with Australia, Singapore & Korea and a TPP will get us in the game in terms of regional trade opening agreements. But it is itself not sufficient. We're going to have to do more."

The TPP may not be ASEAN-based, but U.S. President Barack Obama has spent time during this week's summit discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership with potential members.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's country is involved in talks on both RCEP and the TPP. She says the strategy is not about choosing a U.S.-involved trade agreement over an ASEAN or China-focused pact.

"Getting economic integration which benefits Australia in our region is a pretty hard thing to do," said Gillard.  "So any opportunity we've got to prosecute that agenda.  So from our perspective, it makes sense to be involved in both and to be maximizing our efforts in both."

Reports say that talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership could start as early as next year.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid