RCEP trade deal an important step forward for the region

It is not all about China, as some wrongly claim. Rather, it is a good baseline emphasising Asean’s multilateral cooperation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement on the last day of the Asean Summit on Nov 15, 2020.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

It is too early to expect the incoming Biden administration to seriously relook American policies in Asia. Domestic concerns will be paramount - the pandemic and economic recovery.

Yet, with less than full attention on developments in Asia, there is a danger that misperceptions could arise. Look at how the Asean Summit, which ended last week, has been reported on, especially the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This is a new trade and economic deal that will cover 2.2 billion people and most of East Asia. Yet more than a few overseas media reported that it is led, and even dominated, by China.

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