News analysis

RCEP trade pact shows that Asean is developing its own brand of leadership

(From left) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, China Premier Li Keqiang, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the 3rd RCEP Summit at Impact Muang Thong Thani, Thailand, on Nov 4, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NONTHABURI (Thailand) - A 16-country mega trade pact would have made a fine present for 52-year-old Asean, but it was not to be. On Monday (Nov 4), Thailand's hope to announce the preliminary conclusion to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership while it was hosting the Asean summit were dashed by a very reluctant India.

Naysayers will add that to the string of Asean's perceived failures as it struggles for relevance in a tough neighbourhood riddled with complex rivalries.

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