AFP / Singapore
Trade tensions and high-tech rivalry between the US and China are having a “very negative influence” on the world economy, Australia’s prime minister said yesterday as he urged both powers to resolve their differences.
Scott Morrison, speaking at a business lunch during a visit to Singapore, urged countries to continue expanding partnerships with one another as Washington and Beijing struggle to resolve their disputes.
The world’s two biggest economies have been engaged in a bruising trade war for months, and their dispute recently spilled over into the high-tech sphere after US President Donald Trump blacklisted Chinese technology giant Huawei on national security grounds.
“It’s a very negative influence on global economic performance... This is frustrating because many of the fundamentals of the global economy have strengthened,” said Morrison.
He said it was in the interest of the rest of the world that both countries resolve their disputes, but in the meantime nations should take steps to keep the momentum for free trade.
Morrison cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade deal that 11 nations agreed on even after the US pulled out.
Morrison earlier met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and both expressed hope that another free-trade pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in which both are members would be concluded this year.
“We’re reasonably confident that with sufficient political will and willingness to make difficult trade offs, it’s possible to conclude the RCEP by the end of 2019,” Lee said in a joint news conference after the meeting.
Morrison said the 16 nations negotiating RCEP can now focus on talks after the completion of elections in partner states, including Australia, Indonesia and Thailand.
“We think it’s a very important agreement for our region,” the Australian leader said. China has backed RCEP – of which the US is not a member – amid its prolonged trade showdown with Trump.
RCEP negotiations gathered steam after Trump pulled out of the TPP, a trade pact advocated by his predecessor Barack Obama that did not include China and, unlike RCEP, established labour and environmental standards.
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