SINGAPORE (AP) — Southeast Asian countries will work more closely with new powers China and India to counter the pressure of protectionism and ensure continued growth, Singapore prime minister said Saturday.
Addressing the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that regional economic growth was under threat because the political mood in many countries had turned against free trade. He said recent trade tensions between the U.S. and China in particular are worrying.
The U.S. and China are entangled in their most consequential trade dispute since World War II. Both countries have proposed tariffs of $50 billion on each other’s products; President Donald Trump is looking to impose tariffs of up to $100 billion more on Chinese goods.
“The global strategic balance is shifting, and so is the regional balance,” Lee said. “New powers, including China and India, are growing in strength and influence. This has opened up new opportunities for ASEAN member states as we expand our cooperation with them.”
He said that the group faces challenges closer to home as well, such as the Islamic State group, cybersecurity and strengthening a regional economic community.
ASEAN leaders are expected to discuss free trade, Myanmar’s refugee crisis and the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Friday.
In addition to Singapore, the ASEAN members are Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.