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Southeast Asian Countries Meet For Summit Amidst US-China Trade Tensions

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ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2019

A regional summit for Southeast Asian countries began in the shadows of the US- China trade war. Most of these countries have been affected by this skirmish, something that veteran leader from Malaysia said, ‘should not dampen our spirits and we must stick together in the face of a trade war started by U.S. President Donald Trump’

PM Mohammed Mahathir has been vocal about US treatment of China in the recently concluded 75th UN General Meeting saying that “such kind of bullying must not go unchecked and there has to some mechanism to check levels of sanctions of one nation on another.”

As leaders of the 10 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Bangkok, there was no sign of a trade deal backed by China. This would have helped create the world’s biggest free trade area, but the effects of the trade war can be felt everywhere.

Going ahead with the agenda of the summit, it seems that trade would be the main topic as communicated by the diplomats attending the sessions, 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. Instead of President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, the United States will be represented by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien. China is sending its premier, Li Keqiang.

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