Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Southeast Asian Leaders Meet Under U.S.-China Trade War Cloud

Southeast Asian Leaders Meet Under  U.S.-China Trade War Cloud

BANGKOK - Southeast Asian countries must stick together in the face of a trade war started by U.S. President Donald Trump, Malaysia’s veteran leader said on Saturday at the start of a regional summit held in the shadow of U.S.-China tensions.
But as leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Bangkok, there was no sign they had yet finalised a planned trade deal backed by China that could create the world’s biggest free trade area.
“We don’t want to go into a trade war. But sometimes when they’re unnice to us, we have to be unnice to them,” Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s outspoken 94-year-old prime minister told a business summit on the sidelines of the main meeting.
In an obvious reference to Trump, whose administration began raising tariffs on Chinese imports with the goal of reducing the U.S. trade deficit, Mahathir said “If the person is not there, maybe there will be a change.”
A draft final statement for the ASEAN summit seen by Reuters said the leaders would express “deep concern over the rising trade tensions and on-going protectionist and anti-globalization sentiments.”
Trade would be the main topic, diplomats said, with little discussion expected on perennial regional problems such as maritime disputes with China over the South China Sea and the plight of Rohingya refugees driven from Myanmar.
“We want global economic peace,” said Arin Jira, chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, a body set up by member states.
Export reliant Southeast Asian states are at the sharp end of the trade war, with growth expected to slow to its lowest in five years this year. They are also worried at increasing Chinese influence in a region whose population of more than 620 million is still less than half of China’s. (Reuters)