Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the opening ceremony of the 37th ASEAN summit in Hanoi. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
As a coup for China in extending its influence across the region some fifteen Southeast Asian countries are set to sign an enormous free trade deal at an online summit that started on Thursday.
Once signed, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will be the world's largest trade pact in terms of GDP, according to analysts.
The biannual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, chaired by Vietnam this year, is expected to focus on a wide range of topics, including South China Sea disputes, the coronavirus and trade. The spread of the virus was apparent with Cambodia being represented by its deputy prime minister rather than long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is self-quarantining after being exposed to a visiting minister who had the virus.
Vietnam President Nguyen Phu Trong (centre) walks past flags of the member countries of the ASEAN in Hanoi. Reuters
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in his opening remarks at the 37th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi that, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has so far not been “drawn into the maelstroms” of those rivalries and challenges to the international multilateral system.
“Three quarters of a century have passed since the end of the Second World War. World peace and security, however, are not yet truly sustainable,” said Phuc, whose government holds the chairmanship of the 10-member bloc in 2020.
“This year, they are particularly under greater threat as a result of compounding risks arising from the unpredictable conduct of states, major power rivalries and frictions,” Phuc said.
China claims about 80% of the sea including large swathes of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, as well as the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. It also overlaps the EEZs of ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 37th summit of the ASEAN in Hanoi. AFP
Since mid-August, the United States has repeatedly riled China by sending warships to the South China Sea and has blacklisted 24 Chinese entities over their involvement in building and militarising artificial islands.
ASEAN leaders are also expected to sign the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on Sunday in what could become the world’s biggest trade agreement.
The World Economic Forum cancelled its 2021 annual meeting scheduled for Singapore in three months’ time on Monday, saying it was not possible to hold such a large, global event due to COVID-19.
Southeast Asian leaders gathered in Bangkok on Saturday determined to drive forward the world’s largest commercial pact, with the trade war between the US and China clouding the outlook for their export-led economies.
Italy plans to launch a fund worth up to 40 billion euros ($47.8 billion) this month to help its companies hit by the coronavirus crisis raise capital and strengthen their balance sheets, two sources familiar with the matter said.
The UAE has sent three planes carrying a 1,000 sqm field hospital, which includes 75 beds and two operating rooms equipped with the latest medical supplies and devices, to offer relief to earthquake victims in Afghanistan.
Residents in the UAE felt strong tremors and left their residences. A family told Gulf Today that as soon as they realise that their chandellier was moving without any reason. they knew it was earthquake.
On the other hand, the Gaia space probe unveiled its latest discoveries in its quest to map the Milky Way in unprecedented details, surveying nearly two million stars and revealing mysterious "starquakes" which sweep across the fiery giants like vast tsunamis.
On Saturday, almost a week after her death, people joined hands at a vigil organised by her family to comfort her loved ones and walk with Aleena “in their hearts” along the route she never had the chance to complete.