The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its six regional partners, including Japan, China and India, declared Tuesday the start of negotiations for a free-trade agreement that could create a huge integrated market compromising more than 3 billion people.The move toward creating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership comes as the United States is seeking to create another vast free-trade bloc through the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative.If the RCEP and TPP, which is currently being negotiated by 11 countries, are created, each could be similar in economic size to the European Union. The 16 countries involved in the RCEP negotiations have a combined nominal gross domestic product of about $19 trillion, or about 30 percent of the world's GDP.The RCEP negotiations are expected to begin early next year and to be completed by the end of 2015. But it will be a challenge for the 16 countries with their diverse backgrounds to realize a high-quality agreement to liberalize trade in goods, services and investment.The countries involved are the 10 ASEAN members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
If the establishment truly wants free trade, all it has to do is to repeal our numerous tariffs, import quotas, anti-"dumping" laws, and other American-imposed restrictions on trade. No foreign policy or foreign maneuvering is needed.If authentic free trade evers looms on the policy horizon, there'll be one sure way to tell. The government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail. We'll see a string of op-eds "warning" about the imminent return of the 19th century. Media pundits and academics will raise all the old canards against the free market, that it's exploitative and anarchic without government "coordination." The establishment would react to instituting true free trade about as enthusiastically as it would to repealing the income tax.