Asian Insider, Nov 16: Japan & Australia to align on defence; Vietnam’s street food scandals

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents and commentators.

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In today's bulletin: Japan & Australian leaders are expected to sign defence pact tomorrow; India to refrain from signing world's largest trade pact; Why Biden could be tougher on China than Obama; Japan's economy rebounds; Will Covid-19 create a 'lost generation in Asia; Vietnam's street food scandals, and more.

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Japan and Australia seek to align on defence as China's influence grows

Japan and Australia could sign a historic defence pact tomorrow during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's visit to Tokyo that will align both countries amid China's growing influence in the region, reports said.

During the visit, the two leaders are expected to sign a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that will allow troops from the two countries to train and conduct joint military operations.

This would be the first such agreement for Japan since it signed a status of forces agreement in 1960 that allowed the United States to base warships, fighter jets and thousands of troops in and around Japan as part of a military alliance.

Also read:

Japan PM Suga speaks with Biden, confirms importance of Japan-US ties

Signing of world's biggest trade pact will not encourage India to join, says official

India continues to have misgivings about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact and these have hardened during the coronavirus period, a senior Indian official told The Straits Times, even as the world's largest trade pact was signed by 15 countries yesterday.

The RCEP members account for 30 per cent of the world's economy and one-third of its population. The 10 members of Asean and its key partners - Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, are signatories.

In India, however, there are misgivings especially about over dependence on certain countries' supplies and imports and even about liberal country-of-origin rules, the official said.

The pact eliminates tariffs for at aleast 92 per cent of goods, with additional preferential market access for exports.

A key thing to watch out now would be ratification by the parliaments of various countries. The pact comes into force after six Asean countries and three partners ratify it.

Delve deeper:

East Asia takes big leap of faith with RCEP by Associate Editor Ravi Velloor

5 things to know about RCEP

Why Biden could be tougher on China than Obama

How will America's relations with China change under a Biden presidency? And can it change? There are several factors at play. And it is quite possible that President-elect Joe Biden's hand on China policy could be constrained by both internal and external forces.

Expect the Biden administration to take on a more confrontational approach with China than seen during the Barack Obama years when Mr Biden was vice-president, writes our US Correspondent Charissa Yong.

And even if Mr Biden is inclined to let cooperation override competition, several things will act as a check on his doing so, with a key factor being the Senate Republicans, she adds.

Also read:

Biden win heralds sharper China strategy by US

Japan's economy rebounds, China factory output beats forecasts

Japan reported better-than-expected results for its third quarter, reporting 5 per cent growth and signalling recovery after a record contraction. The news was welcomed by several in a country that has avoided a complete lockdown due to economic considerations. And analysts are predicting that growth will continue into the next quarter.

In other positive news on the economic front, China's factory output grew faster than expected in October and retail continued to recover. Experts say China's fourth-quarter economic growth will accelerate from the third quarter as more and more people show a willingness to open their wallets.

Elsewhere, Thailand reported better third quarter results driven partly by the cash handouts and stimulus measures.

Will Covid-19 create a 'lost generation' in Asia?

With Covid-19 still playing havoc in parts of the region, fears are mounting of the prospect of a "lost generation" in Asia - that may be scarred economically, socially and psychologically. Several have lost jobs, their education and life plans have been disrupted and social distancing has disrupted several businesses. Can they come out of it? Read our special report.

In other news...

Vietnam's street food scandals raise alarm: Vietnam's fragrant noodle soups and fresh spring rolls have won fans across the globe, but mounting food safety scandals on the country's streets are sparking a rising tide of anxiety among millennials about what they eat. As well as anxiety over hygiene standards, there is growing unease about high pesticide use for vegetables and herbs used.

New Zealand refutes China's coronavirus claims on frozen beef products: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she was confident no meat products were exported from the country with Covid-19, after Chinese authorities said they had detected coronavirus on its frozen beef products.

North India chokes on smog after Diwali: Hundreds of millions of Indians in north India woke up on Sunday to toxic air following Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, after many revellers defied bans on using firecrackers to celebrate. The capital New Delhi was blanketed with a thick haze, with the average pollution level in the capital over nine times what is considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

Thanks for reading the Asian Insider & The Straits Times. We'll be back with you tomorrow.


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