Call for open markets as world leaders gather in Singapore

Published November 12, 2018, 8:20 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Genalyn Kabiling, Argyll Cyrus Geducos, and Agence France-Presse

President Duterte flew to Singapore Monday afternoon to attend the three-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related summits as Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made an impassioned plea for open markets.


Joining the official Philippine delegation are Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista.

Also joining the President for the Summit are National Security Adviser HermogenesEsperon Jr., Presidential spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, Philippine Permanent Representative to ASEAN Elizabeth Buensuceso, and Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap.

Based on his schedule, President Duterte will have a busy Tuesday evening as he is set to attend five ASEAN events, including the working dinner and the Summit Plenary.

On Wednesday, ASEAN leaders will have their separate summits with Australia, China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan. A working lunch hosted by ASEAN Chairman Singapore Prime Minister Lee HsienLoong will also take place on Wednesday. The second Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit will also be held on the same day.

The Southeast Asian leaders on Thursday will have their separate summits with India, and the United States. They will also hold the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, and the East Asia Summit in the afternoon before the closing of the 33rd ASEAN Summit and the ceremonial turnover of the chairmanship to the Kingdom of Thailand.

According to Panelo, the Summit will be an opportunity for the Philippine government to join in discussions pertaining to the progress of the ASEAN Community blueprints and in bringing ASEAN closer to the realization of a people-centered ASEAN Community.

“Similarly, the related summits in Singapore will give the President the chance to witness the progress of ASEAN’s relations with its dialogue partners, with the goal of fostering deeper cooperation on priority areas including peace, security, economy, and overall well-being of our people,” he said.

The DFA had earlier said Duterte is expected to discuss several key issues that affect the southeast Asian region during the three-day Summit. These issues include micro, small and medium enterprises; infrastructure development; economic integration, economic building, and economic community, and economic cooperation; connectivity.

Open markets

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee HsienLoong made the plea for open markets on Monday and warned “political pressures” were driving countries apart, in a swipe at rising protectionism at the start of a gathering of world leaders.

Leaders including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US Vice President Mike Pence are both attending the ASEAN summit amid months-long trade dispute between Beijing and Washington.

Some of those attending are expected to announce major progress on a massive China-backed trade deal that excludes the US, in a rebuke to President Donald Trump’s increasingly unilateralist approach to international commerce.

Trump is skipping the annual summit — which was regularly attended by his predecessor Barack Obama — in a sign of how far he has withdrawn from attempts to shape the global rules of trade and raising new questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia.

Addressing a business forum ahead of this week’s main meetings, Singapore Prime Minister called for Southeast Asian companies to invest more in each others’ markets and be more open to foreign competition.

“The more integrated and open our markets are, and the more conducive our rules and business environments to foreign investment, the larger the pie will grow, and the more we will all benefit,” he said.

Many of those attending are expected to send a message in support of free trade by announcing major progress on the China-backed deal, the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

With the US having pulled out of rival pact the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the RCEP is now the world’s biggest trade deal.

The pact – which is less ambitious than the TPP in areas such as employment and environmental protection – groups the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

APEC meet

After ASEAN, the President is scheduled to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic leaders’ summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on November 17 and 18 where empowering micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and ensuring food security will be part of his priority agenda.

“As one of the best performing economies and the fastest growing region the world, the Philippines has much to contribute as well as much to gain from a fruitful discussion with our neighbors, friends and allies in APEC,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella said during a Palace press briefing.

“The President conveys his support for mechanisms that will enable our MSMEs or MSMEs as they call it to take advantage of digital and online platforms to benefit their enterprises and to bring their products and services overseas,” he said.

“This is a new era for Filipino engagement on the world stage. The Asia Pacific region represents the epicenter of global growth making APEC the most important economic cooperation platform in the world,” he said.

Papua New Guinea is home to over 40,000 Filipinos and over 200 Philippine companies operate in the country.

“The Philippines provides important services to the people of PNG. Foremost of which is agricultural expertise, assisting local rice growers to improve yields and to maximize efficiency,” he said.

APEC, a regional forum established in 1989, seeks to tackle initiatives seeking to create balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure economic growth in the region. The forum also ensures that goods, services, investment and people move easily across borders.

The 21 member-economies are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States of America, and Vietnam.