Heads of state who attended the 35th ASEAN summit in Bangkok Thailand decided to defer the final draft of a proposed trade bloc that would govern economic relations between China and members of ASEAN.
In his official address before ASEAN leaders, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says only one country has not expressed desire to join a 16-nation trade bloc which would ease the flow of goods and services among economies of the region including economic powerhouse China.
Called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, the bloc intends to dismantle trade barriers and set common standards of understanding for trade between ASEAN and six East and Pacific rim nations including China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
During the summit, it was India who expressed deep concern on the possibility of China dumping its goods into it. India has a billion in population similar with China. Its competitive advantage lies on its huge market.
China, meanwhile, supports not a 16 nation bloc but a 10-nation bloc although the economic superpower did not identify who among the ASEAN nations it is willing to enter into an agreement.
A final trade report is expected to be submitted to ASEAN leaders on February 2020, by which members are expected to endorse to summit participants in Vietnam.
ASEAN is a big market of nearly 650 million people composed of those living in Malay-dominated countries such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Indochina consisting of Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.