US Helpless as China Has Turned South China Sea into Its Lake


South China Morning Post’s article “Has the US already lost the battle for the South China Sea?” yesterday asked the stupid question whether the US has already lost the battle for the South China Sea.

It’s stupid as there has not been and will not be any battle there as by deployment of J-20s to control the air and construction of artificial islands the US is simply unable to fight a battle in the South China Sea.

Subdue the enemy without fighting is the best of best

                                                              –Sun Tze

The SCMP article says that some military experts and analysts believe China’s artificial islands may be destroyed by missiles but so are US military bases in Asia and the Guam.

If there were such a missile battle, it would be a battle in East Asia instead of a small battle in the South China Sea. In such a war, the US cannot be sure of the support from its allies Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines but China can be very sure of the support from its de facto ally Russia.

In fact, the US has lost dominance of not only the South China Sea but East Asia.

Comment on SCMP’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3046619/has-us-already-lost-battle-south-china-sea?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=enlz-scmp_international&utm_content=20200118&MCUID=480db96a00&MCCampaignID=ffe3a1a725&MCAccountID=3775521f5f542047246d9c827&tc=4


RCEP trade deal can take effect without India, Thailand confirms


China, Japan, ASEAN and others to write up treaty for ratification by June

MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writer

November 08, 2019 18:09 JST

Photo Thai, Indian PMs

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. It is unclear whether India will return to the RCEP talks. © AP

BANGKOK — A historic Asia-Pacific trade pact may come into force without one of the biggest participants — a hesitant India — a top Thai official indicated on Friday.

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership can take effect after at least six countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and four other participating nations ratify it,” said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations in Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce.

She said she expects RCEP to launch in 2021.

Sixteen nations — the 10 ASEAN states plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India — had been aiming to conclude the pact at an RCEP Summit held this past Monday.

India, however, put up a last-minute fight for safeguards, in view of its large trade deficits with other members — especially China. New Delhi’s resistance stalled the process, but Auramon confirmed there is still a way forward with or without India.

The Indian government has sent mixed signals since the contentious summit, hinting it intends to completely drop out but also suggesting it is open to further negotiations. The Thai director-general emphasized that India is still an RCEP member, but also said “RCEP members do not have a timeline to resume talks with India.”

The 15 other nations, having concluded talks on all 20 chapters of the agreement during the summit period, have decided to go ahead and introduce legislation toward ratification. This process is expected to take until next June, according to Auramon.

The participants plan to review the RCEP agreement every five years, she revealed.

Even without India, Auramon said RCEP would still be the largest trade pact in history.

But the new bloc would be much smaller than envisioned, covering 2.2 billion people rather than 3.6 billion. Its gross domestic product, which would have accounted for about one-third of global GDP, would be down to 29% of the worldwide figure.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review “RCEP trade deal can take effect without India, Thailand confirms”

Note: This is Nikkei Asian Review’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China-led RCEP to Be Signed at ASEAN Summit November 2-4


CGTN says in its article “Trade deal tops agenda at upcoming ASEAN summit” that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be signed at ASEAN summit November 2-4.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are confirmed to attend as senior figures from ASEAN’s dialogue-partner nations,” CGTN says.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a planned agreement between the 10 countries of ASEAN and six more nations: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The bloc accounts for half the world’s population and a third of global trade.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CGTN’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-10-28/RCEP-tops-agenda-at-upcoming-ASEAN-summit-LajwwXScDu/index.html.


Thailand says ‘good feeling’ over China-backed trade pacts


Patpicha Tanakasempipat October 18, 2019 / 7:23 PM / Updated 12 hours ago

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand has a “good feeling” that a China-backed free trade pact for countries with nearly half the world’s population will be agreed this year after years of delay, a Thai official said on Friday.

Negotiators for the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are in the Thai capital this week to try to finalize what could become the world’s largest free trade zone with a third of global gross domestic product.

Progress in talks that began in 2012 has been held up by disputes between China and India over access to markets and lists of protected goods. India wants safeguards to be built into the proposed pact to prevent a sudden surge in imports.

But Thailand said the trade agreement was on track to be concluded while it chairs the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year – and ideally before an RCEP summit on Nov. 4.

We still have a good feeling … that all 16 members, including India, are willing to try to solve the remaining differences,” said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Trade Negotiations. “Our target is still to have a good deal by the end of this year.”

First proposed by China, RCEP comprises the ASEAN member states and six Asia-Pacific countries: China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. ASEAN has existing free-trade agreements with all six Asia-Pacific countries.

RCEP members were working on two parallel negotiations, on market access in goods and services, and on a draft agreement text, the official said.

Market access negotiations, conducted bilaterally, were already 80.4% completed, with 16% of the remainder “near conclusion,” Auramon said, adding that an outstanding 3.6% still need to be discussed urgently.

Countries that don’t have existing free trade agreements with each other, such as China and India, may take longer in their talks, said Auramon.

Members are spending the remaining period trying to get rid of some differences and trying to conclude talks,” she said.

Because it’s done bilaterally, we don’t know the details of their discussions,” she added.

India has reached an agreement in principle with other countries to include a safeguard mechanism that would trigger duties if goods are deemed to have been dumped from a partner country, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters in India last week.

Fourteen chapters of the 20-chapter text have so far been approved by all members, Auramon said.

ASEAN and its partners will hold three more RCEP-related meetings before an RCEP summit early next month, where ASEAN leaders expect to announce the success of the talks.

It’s a significant year, with global trade disputes and uncertainties, and nobody wants to lose out,” Auramon said.

(This story has been refiled to remove an extra word in paragraph 9, move paragraph 10 down to 12)

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin

Source: Reuters “Thailand says ‘good feeling’ over China-backed trade pact”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Asean ‘confident’ RCEP done by year’s end


Optimistic despite Malaysia’s u-turn, Japan-South Korea spat

published : 6 Oct 2019 at 20:19

writer: Thana Boonlert

Asean Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi on Sunday expressed his confidence that the long-awaited Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be completed in principle before Thailand’s chairmanship ends at the end of this year.

The secretary-general said that despite Malaysia’s recent decision to backtrack on its commitment to the deal and the growing trade spat between Japan and South korea, he remains optimistic that RCEP negotiations will continue as planned.

“This is the seventh year of negotiations, and I’d like to see it concluded,” he told reporters on Sunday at the 8th ERIA Editors’ Roundtable on Asean Vision 2040: Towards Bolder and Stronger Asean Community.

The event was co-hosted in Bangkok by the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) and Bangkok Post.

“More importantly, against the backdrop of trade tension and uncertainties in the global market, we [Asean] are determined to get it done, despite the last-minute issues that were raised by some members,” he said.

The secretary-general remained adamant, saying that the regional partnership scheme is “doable”.

“We should take a pragmatic approach. Given the significant progress in Da Nang, we have to do what we can to resolve and finalise [the negotiations] by the end of this year,” he said.

Of course, we are not 100% done. Perhaps we need a few more months to fine tune some areas. At least we will [conclude the RCEP negotiations] in principle.”

Source: Bangkok Post “Asean ‘confident’ RCEP done by year’s end”

Note: This is Bangkok Post’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Belt and Road, RCEP China’s Alternatives to US Market


CGTN’s report “Chinese vice premier: China-ASEAN ties enter new stage of all-round development” on September 22 says that China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) has promoted trade growth between China and ASEAN by 14.1% in 2018 and made it hit a record high of 587.87 billion U.S. dollars. Now ASEAN had replaced the US as China’s second largest trade partner.

Moreover, BRI enables the establishment of industrial parks in ASEAN to enable China to move producers for exports to the US to those parks. It will not only enable those producers to avoid US tariff hikes but reduce their labor costs.

Last year, China signed memorandum of understanding with Myanmar and Banglasesh respectively for China-Myanmar and China-Bangladesh Economic Corridors, in both of which the establishment of such parks is one of the focuses.

Moreover, China has been conducting intensive talks with ASEAM, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India for the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year. RCEP may also expand China’s market there as alternative to US market. With the growth of market due to BRI and RCEP, the impact of US tariff hikes will be substantially reduced and soon be minimal. As a result, the US will be the only casualty of its trade war.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CGNV’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-09-21/Chinese-Vice-Premier-says-China-and-the-world-inseparable-KadfNAZouA/index.html.


RCEP Possible without India by the End of This Year


Bloomberg’s report “India Criticizes Chinese Trade Policies” shows India’s lack of enthusiasm in RCEP, the pan-Asian free trade agreement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

When RCEP was initiated seven years ago, it was regarded as China’s efforts to counter US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) aimed at containing China.

However, when TTP was signed by all its members, India was anxious to set up RCEP to counter it as India found that TTP would contain India more severely than China. Now, as the US has withdrawn from TTP, the harm to India has been mostly removed so that Indian trade deficit with China becomes India’s major concerns, which RECP cannot satisfactorily deal with so that India has lost its enthusiasm in RCEP.

The report quotes Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar as saying on Monday, “The big concerns of India are of course, one, its relationship with China because we have an enormous trade deficit with China,” in response to a question regarding the ongoing negotiations for RCEP.

However, ASEAN is anxious to set up RECP as it will be greatly benefited by it. The report says, “Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who was also on the panel, urged India to reconsider its position on RCEP, saying that Beijing and New Delhi would have to come to terms on trade eventually.”

The report quotes Balakrishnan as saying, “I am making the argument that it is worth making the effort, because this would be a game changer.”

Japan had great enthusiasm in TPP to ally with the US to contain China. However, since US withdrawal from TPP, Japan has switched its enthusiasm to RCEP for a larger share of the growing Asian market especially the huge Chinese market.

ASEAN, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand have already had free trade agreements with China. As the Chinese market is much more important for them and Japan, all potential RCEP members want anxiously to set up RCEP as soon as possible; therefore, they may well sign an agreement on the establishment of RCEP without India by the end of this year if India is unwilling to be RCEP’s founding member.

Therefore, Bloomberg’s “doubt over progress of negotiations for a pan-Asian free trade agreement” is merely the doubt about India’s participation in RCEP.

As Indian market is much less important than China and ASEAN’s, RCEP will very likely be set up without India.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-09/india-criticizes-chinese-trade-policies-as-rcep-talks-resume.