Disagreements between Asian countries over a China-backed free trade deal surfaced at talks on Monday, raising questions over a target for concluding negotiations by the end of the year. But as Ciara Lee reports, the deal has been given new impetus by the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.
It was a case of the U.S. on one side and the 20 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, on the other. Meeting in Vietnam, they failed to come out with their usual joint statement. The U.S. rejecting language on fighting protectionism, the Asian countries insisting it should be included. The trade gathering was the biggest since Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED STATE TRADE REPRESENTATIVE, ROBERT LIGHTHIZER, SAYING: "The United States, as you say, pulled out of the TPP, and it is not gonna change that decision. That does not mean we won't engage in this area. We very much expect to do that." Members of the TPP agreed on the sidelines of the meeting to pursue the deal without the U.S., although many doubt it will go ahead. And another trade agreement is moving up the agenda - The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP RCEP would create a free trade area of more than 3.5 billion people. It would include India, Japan and South Korea. As well as Australia, New Zealand and other Southeast Asian nations. And with backing of heavyweight China, this agreement at least might be more successful. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BGC MARKET STRATEGIST, MIKE INGRAM, SAYING: "There are some sizeable economies there. Is it sensible? Well it really depends how you look at it. Obviously China is the larges single player economically out there. You've got highly embdedded supply chains within Asia eminating from China. And of course, China remains a massive consumer of goods going forward." Members hope to get it signed by the end of the year. But some involved say that may be tricky given the disagreements over several issues. India in particular is reluctant to give up on tariffs - the main focus of the RCEP.