Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asian nations denounce ‘real threat’ of US-China trade war

Asian nations denounce ‘real threat’ of US-China trade war

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (third left) shakes hands with North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho (third right) as they arrive for a group photo at the Asean Regional Forum Retreat during the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on Saturday. Mohd RASFAN/afp

Asian nations denounce ‘real threat’ of US-China trade war

Asian countries have voiced concern about the potentially devastating impact of a US-China trade war, with ministers calling for the acceleration of talks for a gigantic Beijing-backed free-trade deal that excludes the United States.

Fear that a simmering trade spat between the world’s top two economies could spiral into a full-blown trade war – with painful consequences for China’s neighbours – was among topics dominating discussion at a regional summit in Singapore on Saturday.

Tit-for-tat tariffs have fuelled months of tensions that were notched up Friday as Beijing threatened to impose levies on $60 billion of American goods, from beef to condoms.

The measures, which the White House ridiculed as “weak” but China said were “fully justified”, came after Washington said it would increase the rate of additional tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200 billion.

The prospect of a trade war is a “real threat” to Asian countries, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters Saturday on the sidelines of the summit.

“The threat is making many countries very concerned and ... is becoming more complex,” he said.

Other top Asian diplomats at Saturday’s forum, hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), spoke out against protectionism, warning that it places the region’s development in jeopardy.

“Rising anti-globalisation and trade protectionism among major countries is fuelling tensions and threatening our aspirations for sustained economic growth,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Countries in the region must “explore creative ways to further deepen and broaden our cooperation”, in the face of such challenges, she said.

Some ministers have called for the early conclusion of talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a 16-nation pact poised to become the world’s largest free-trade agreement, covering about half the global population.

The planned RCEP deal would group the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

‘Protectionism on the rise’

But it would not include the United States, which had been leading another regional trade pact – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – until US President Donald Trump abruptly abandoned it last year.

Even with the lure to access to the world’s largest economy withdrawn, the eleven remaining TPP countries, who make up 13.5 percent of the global economy, signed a slimmed-down version of the pact in March.

It cuts tariffs and requires members to comply with a high level of regulatory standards in areas like labour law and environmental protection.

RCEP also aims to cut tariffs but has far less regulatory standards attached than TPP.

Nonetheless, Washington’s abandonment of TPP has given the RCEP negotiations a fresh shot in the arm.

“Given the current global situation where protectionism is on the rise, Japan would like to achieve a swift conclusion of our RCEP negotiations,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he hoped the RCEP pact would be complete by the end of the year, while Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urged countries facing “headwinds against free trade” to rally together.

The US imposed 25 per cent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods in early July, sparking retaliatory measures from China.

Days later, Washington unveiled a list of another $200 billion in Chinese goods from electrical machinery to seafood that would be hit with 10 percent import duties.

Trump upped the ante this week by threatening to lift the tariff rate to 25 per cent.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the US position and hit back at China.

“President Trump inherited an unfair trade regime where American workers and American companies were not treated reciprocally by the Chinese,” he said Saturday.

“Efforts of the Trump administration are to right that, to correct it, to adjust that.”

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa