ASEAN leaders hope for trade deal

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Bangkok

Southeast Asian leaders meet for a second day in Thailand on Sunday, hoping for a breakthrough in talks over the world’s largest trade deal to help throw off the torpor which has gripped the global economy since the US-China tariff war began.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened its annual summit in Bangkok on Saturday hoping to secure a China-backed free trade pact at the three-day event, which knits together half the world’s population and around 40 percent of its commerce. For seven years the group has been wrangling over a deal spanning from India to New Zealand called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Though it is now seen as an urgent counterpoint to US protectionism, one senior trade delegate from the Philippines said a deal appeared unlikely before next year. Washington’s trade rumble with Beijing has weighed on markets, with the International Monetary Fund warning the spat could cut global growth to the lowest pace in more than a decade.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s protectionist rhetoric has spooked some ASEAN nations, which fear their economies could fall under his crosshairs.—AFP/APP