Philippines, like New Zealand, reject Myanmar in trade pact

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has followed New Zealand’s decision to reject Myanmar’s inclusion in the world’s largest free trade pact amid international opposition to the military takeover that has sparked violence and democratic setbacks in the Southeast Asian nation has expanded into trade and diplomacy. punishments.

Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr. told his Association of Southeast Asian Nations counterparts at a Thursday meeting in Cambodia that the Philippines would not accept “the instrument of ratification” of Myanmar’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, referring to the key document binding a country to the 15 free trade agreement between the two countries, which entered into force on January 1.

In Locsin’s speech released to reporters in Manila on Friday, he cited no reason for the Philippines’ decision and added that he was prepared to back down if that stance stood in the way of a collective stance by the 10-nation regional bloc. , which includes Burma.

It’s not immediately clear whether other member nations of RCEP, which includes all 10 ASEAN members, plus China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, would also snub the inclusion of Myanmar and would eventually exclude it from the massive trading bloc.

Myanmar’s military wrested power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, in a power grab that sparked widespread street protests and civil disobedience. About 1,500 civilians were killed by the security forces, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. Suu Kyi, 76, remains in custody with other ousted officials and faces a series of charges that human rights groups say are baseless.

Two Asian diplomats told The Associated Press this week that New Zealand had notified other RCEP countries that it would not recognize Myanmar papers. allowing him to join the trading bloc because he opposes his military-led government.

New Zealand was among the Western countries that quickly opposed the takeover, suspending all high-level military and political contact with Myanmar and calling on army chiefs to immediately release all political leaders and restore civil rule. He also imposed a travel ban on Myanmar generals.

Locsin was one of the region’s most vocal in calling for dialogue to resolve the year-long crisis in Myanmar, welcoming plans for an ASEAN special envoy to visit the war-ravaged country. crisis next month to initiate a discussion between the contending groups.

“The dialogue must include everyone and not just a select few, more specifically it must include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint,” Locsin told his fellow ministers. “It should be a real dialogue and not a ventriloquist act.”

The measures taken by New Zealand and the Philippines underscore the growing fallout of the Myanmar crisis on the economic and diplomatic spheres.

ASEAN is growing frustrated with Myanmar’s failure to honor a five-step deal last year, including its refusal to allow the bloc’s envoy to meet Suu Kyi and other detained leaders to start a dialogue. The regional bloc has refused to recognize the military-led administration in Myanmar and has banned its military-appointed diplomats from attending its meetings since last year.

Originally, RCEP would have included about 3.6 billion people and encompassed about one-third of global trade and global GDP. Although India gave up before the agreement was signed in Novemberit still covers more than 2 billion people and almost a third of all global trade and commercial activity.

The agreement reduces tariffs on thousands of products, streamlines trade procedures and provides mutual benefits for member countries. Experts expect the deal to boost trade in the region by 2%, or $42 billion, and participating countries have expressed hope that the initiative will help them recover from the pandemic.

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