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One third of the global economy and almost half of the world's population are involved: In Bangkok, 16 Asian countries are negotiating the world's largest free trade agreement. The initiative came from China.
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (2nd from left) receives trading partner in Bangkok

The negotiations should be concluded "later this year" to boost economic growth, trade and investment, "said Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the inauguration of the annual Southeast Asian Nations Association (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok. The free trade agreement involves the ten member states of ASEAN and six other countries - China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Their heads of state and government will not attend a meeting on Monday until Monday.

Idea from Beijing

The agreement would include a space of more than three billion people and a $ 17 trillion economic power. This corresponds to around 40 percent of world trade. China had proposed the trade partnership and wanted to build a counterbalance to the trade agreement TPP. The "Transpacific Partnership" (TPP) is owned by eleven states on various continents, including Australia, Chile and Canada. The US also originally wanted to participate. A few days after taking office, US President Donald Trump announced the agreement in 2017 but on.
As a result, the Southeast Asian states of ASEAN intensified their work on a separate agreement and are now in the final stages of the negotiations. The agreement could be signed in February 2020, a spokeswoman for the Thai government said.
Thailand ASEAN Summit (picture-alliance / AP / S.Lalit)
The ASEAN group comprises ten states in Southeast Asia
Another topic on the agenda in Bangkok is the territorial dispute in the South China Sea . The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim parts of the South China Sea, while Beijing occupies almost the entire maritime region. The regional bloc has worked with China to develop a non-aggression agreement or code of conduct. "We are ready to work with ASEAN countries and build on the existing foundations and foundations to maintain long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea," said Chinese PM Li Keqiang to ASEAN leaders in Bangkok.

Climate change affects Southeast Asia particularly strongly

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled as a guest to the summit in Bangkok and appealed to the world to get out of coal because of the climate crisis of energy. "I have been working hard to make more progress on carbon pricing and to make sure that there are no new coal-fired power plants by 2020," Guterres said. It should not continue to use trillions of taxpayer money as subsidies for fossil fuels, he said with a view to climate change. This only leads to more cyclones, tropical diseases and conflicts.
Thailand Asean Summit l UN General Secretary Guterres (picture alliance / dpa / AP / A. Rahi)
UN Secretary-General António Guterres: "It takes concrete measures"
He was particularly worried about the effects of the many coal-fired power plants that would be rebuilt in some parts of the world, such as in East, South and Southeast Asia, Guterres said. At the same time, developed countries would also have to help developing countries to emit less harmful gases. It needs concrete measures.

Already the day before, Guterres had said that the world's dependence on coal remains a major threat to climate change and that countries in the ASEAN region are particularly vulnerable. In the region a lot of energy is gained from coal. A recent report released by the UN states that sea levels are likely to rise faster than expected because of climate change. Therefore, several Asian cities are threatened by flooding in the future.