ASEAN leaders meet in Singapore as Beijing and Washington compete for investment influence

ASEAN leaders meet in Singapore as Beijing and Washington compete for investment influence

Political leaders from the 10 ASEAN plus China, the US and Japan will meet in Singapore today in the ASEAN+3

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Photo: EPA

Political leaders from the 10 ASEAN plus China, the US and Japan will meet in Singapore today in the ASEAN+3 format.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pact, a free tree deal being negotiated among 16 different countries, encompassing more than a third of world GDP. Notably, it does not include the US.

US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to push for a broader regional plan to support US-style infrastructure development in the region that is led by the private sector but backed by billions in development financing from Washington, as well as allies in Japan and Australia.

Although some have criticised President Donald Trump for sending Vice President Pence in his stead, it is unlikely the president’s absence will make much of a difference in how today’s talks proceed.

As Southeast Asian countries continue to fret over managing the perennial fear of a conflict in the South China Sea, they remain concerned about the geopolitical implications of drawing economically closer to China. Many, but not all, of these nations find appeal in a broad regional trade deal, but continue to see deals with the US as a better wager for their long-term security concerns.

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