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The U.S. withdrawal from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership - reaffirmed by Trump in a videotaped speech last week - has focused attention on a competing set of trade talks planned for Indonesia next week. The negotiations, which unlike TPP include China and not the U.S., aim to synchronize existing pacts across much of Asia and would cover 30 percent of the global economy and almost half the world’s population.
The proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, has become the next best hope for trade-hungry Asian nations after Trump’s surprise presidential win signaled a shift toward more protectionist policies in the U.S. Securing a deal would help cement China’s role as a geopolitical leader and further enmesh the world’s second-largest economy in the region.
“Unless the U.S. steps up its economic game, all the countries of this region will be pulled into the orbit of China economically,” said Kishore Mahbubani, a former diplomat and now dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. “As long as China becomes the economic center of gravity, its political influence will grow.”
The next round of RCEP talks will be held in Bumi Serpong Damai city, near Jakarta, from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10.
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