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The world's largest trade deal ?

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ASEAN 2019BANGKOK, Thailand – Southeast Asian leaders met Saturday, November 2, in Thailand eyeing a breakthrough in talks over the world's largest trade deal to help throw off the torpor which has gripped the global economy since the start of the US-China tariff war. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opened their annual summit in Bangkok hoping to secure a China-backed free trade pact knitting together half of the world's population and around 40 percent of its commerce. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – a deal spanning India to New Zealand and wrangled over for several years

is now seen as an urgent counterpoint to US protectionism. Washington's trade rumble with Beijing has weighed on markets, with the IMF warning the spat could cut global growth to the lowest pace in more than a decade. Meanwhile President Donald Trump's protectionist rhetoric has spooked some ASEAN nations who fear their economies could fall under his crosshairs.

Trump has repeatedly warned of further intervention to protect American business and several Asian nations are waiting to find out if the US will put them on a watch list of "currency manipulators". Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned the regional bloc could hit back against any punitive trade measures, skirting over specifics. "We will do exactly what Trump does," he told a business forum ahead of the summit opening, calling the US leader "not a very nice man".

Meanwhile President Donald Trump's protectionist rhetoric has spooked some ASEAN nations who fear their economies could fall under his crosshairs. Trump has repeatedly warned of further intervention to protect American business and several Asian nations are waiting to find out if the US will put them on a watch list of "currency manipulators". Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned the regional bloc could hit back against any punitive trade measures, skirting over specifics. "We will do exactly what Trump does," he told a business forum ahead of the summit opening, calling the US leader "not a very nice man"

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