China-backed trade deal pushed back to 2019

The summit took place in Singapore, where leaders from the ASEAN discussed the deal. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018

China-backed trade deal pushed back to 2019

  • Trade diplomats said negotiations will run deep into 2019
  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering half the world’s population, is billed as an antidote to President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda

SINGAPORE: A China-backed bid to complete the world’s largest trade deal — without the United States — was pushed back to next year after Asia-Pacific trade ministers failed to agree key terms at a Singapore summit.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering half the world’s population, is billed as an antidote to President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, which has seen tariffs imposed on almost half of all Chinese imports to the US — and retaliatory levies by Beijing.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is attending a Singapore summit to rally support for the deal, said he hoped RCEP would be signed and implemented next year.
“It (RCEP) is going to deliver real benefits to the people of our region,” he said in an address Tuesday.
China was now the standard bearer of global free trade, he added, with the RCEP — a sweeping 16-country deal that includes China, Japan, India and the 10 members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) — at the heart of its strategy.
“It’s going to send a message to the international community that we stand by free trade... with rising protectionism and strains on free trade we need to advance the RCEP negotiations,” Li said.
He conceded the Chinese economy was facing “challenges” in the wake of the trade war with the US, but insisted strong fundamentals meant radical intervention was not the remedy.
“Despite downward pressures we will not resort to massive stimulus,” Li said.

Trade diplomats said negotiations will run deep into 2019.
“We made significant progress,” New Zealand minister of state for trade and export growth Damien O’Connor told reporters after talks late Monday.
“But we are very happy with that and is heading in the right direction.”
India’s concerns over opening its markets to competition, in particular from Chinese firms, has been a key sticking point in the several years of negotiations.
But New Delhi’s delegation welcomed the incremental steps toward the establishing the trade agreement.
“The future lies in RCEP,” Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters, but urged a patient approach to talks to ensure “every country will benefit from it.”
Several general elections scheduled early next year — including in India, Thailand and Indonesia — have complicated the timeframe of a deal that will open markets in countries covering nearly half the world’s GDP.
A draft leaders’ statement on the RCEP seen by AFP noted the urgency of reaching an agreement “given the current headwinds faced by the global economy.”
RCEP was given extra impetus after Trump pulled the US out of the rival Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is still alive even without Washington, but RCEP is now the world’s biggest trade deal.
However, the Beijing-backed pact is much less ambitious than the TPP in areas such as employment and environmental protection.
The ASEAN summit, which formally opens Tuesday afternoon, is expected to sweep in trade, maritime disputes and the Rohingya crisis.
Key world leaders including China’s Li, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mike Pence — Trump’s number two — are also in Singapore for talks foreshadowed by the China-US trade war and its ripple effect on global economies, particularly in Asia.
Pence is also expected to keep pressure on Beijing over its growing aggression in the South China Sea while seeking support over Washington’s approach to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also in Singapore and is likely to face intense scrutiny over her country’s treatment of the Rohingya, particularly from Muslim-majority nations at the summit.
Amnesty International on Monday stripped Suu Kyi of its highest honor, citing her “indifference” to the atrocities committed by Myanmar’s army against the minority.


BT warns UK that banning Huawei too fast could cause outages

Updated 2 min 33 sec ago

BT warns UK that banning Huawei too fast could cause outages

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to decide this week whether to impose tougher restrictions on Huawei
  • British PM in January granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network
LONDON: BT CEO Philip Jansen urged the British government on Monday not to move too fast to ban China’s Huawei from the 5G network, cautioning that there could be outages and even security issues if it did.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to decide this week whether to impose tougher restrictions on Huawei, after intense pressure from the United States to ban the Chinese telecoms behemoth from Western 5G networks.
Johnson in January defied President Donald Trump and granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network, but the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus crisis and a row over Hong Kong has changed the mood in London.
“If you are to try not to have Huawei at all, ideally we would want seven years and we could probably do it in five,” Jansen told BBC radio.
Asked what the risks would be if telecoms operators were told to do it in less than five years, Jansen said: “We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term.”
“If we get to a situation where things need to go very, very fast, then you are into a situation where potentially service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question — outages,” he said.
In what some have compared to the Cold War antagonism with the Soviet Union, the United States is worried that 5G dominance is a milestone toward Chinese technological supremacy that could define the geopolitics of the 21st century.
The United States says Huawei is an agent of the Chinese Communist State and cannot be trusted.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, has said the United States wants to frustrate its growth because no US company could offer the same range of technology at a competitive price.