MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday took a jab at a trade deal championed by former United States President Barack Obama but rejected by his successor Donald Trump.
At the closing ceremonies of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Duterte said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was “a dream that is no longer there.”
Obama had pushed for the 12-nation deal, saying it would enable the US to set the global trade agenda in the face of China's increasing economic clout.
But Trump strongly opposed the agreement, saying it would be bad for America and cost jobs, casting a huge shadow over its future. In January, he formally withdrew the US from the 2015 pact where 11 other countries such as Japan and New Zealand are involved.
The businessman President, who wants to boost US manufacturing, said he would seek one-on-one trade deals with countries that would allow America to quickly terminate them in 30 days "if somebody misbehaves."
Even as he lauded Trump’s decision to dump the TPP, Duterte in his speech Tuesday pushed for the enforcement of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a China-led proposed free-trade agreement that also includes ASEAN member states, as well as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Korea.
“We must take a serious look at economic integration. ASEAN has a bigger stake than any part of the world in standing up against protectionism and securing the rules of the game in international trade,” Duterte said.
“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP will provide further impetus to our efforts. Negotiations should conclude swiftly as decided by RCEP leaders in 2016,” he added.
RCEP's membership of 16 countries account for almost half of the world's population, almost 30 percent of global gross domestic product and over a quarter of world exports.
The proposed agreement covers trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights, competition policy, and dispute settlement, among other issues. It does not cover labor, environment and state-owned enterprises.
Duterte’s keynote address caps four days of meetings of regional leaders where the global terror threat, South China Sea disputes, and North Korea’s missile tests were high on the agenda.
In his speech, Duterte urged his fellow leaders to work on securing the region from various threats so that “our peoples can live without fear.”
“We want a region that is stable, where democratic institutions work, where nations regard each other with mutual respect and understanding, and where the rule of law reigns supreme in the relations between states,” he said.
“We want a region that is sustainable and inclusive in its growth, where no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity [to realize] their potentials.”