Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.
5 November 2019
In today’s bulletin: India rejects RCEP, the world’s largest trade pact; Xi Jinping promises open markets and free trade deals, Jho Low’s globe-trotting facilitated by multiple passports, one of which is being revoked by Cyprus.
INDIA REJECTS RCEP
India has chosen not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the other 15 countries involved in negotiations for the mega trade pact said they are ready to sign the deal next year. Even without India, RCEP will be the world’s largest trade pact.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the fact that the remaining 15 countries have managed to agree on it was a great achievement. Internal political opposition in India to the RCEP deal intensified recently.
Asean Summit: RCEP conclusion without India still a ‘major step forward’, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
RCEP trade pact shows that Asean is developing its own brand of leadership
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi steers opposition to RCEP trade pact in India
Influential group in India launches nationwide protest against RCEP free trade pact
XI PLEDGES WIDER MARKET ACCESS, FREE TRADE DEALS
Chinese President Xi Jinping told world leaders on Tuesday that China would honour its commitment and promises, as he renewed a pledge to open the Chinese market and economy to foreign companies. Mr Xi urged countries to “tear down walls” and stand firm against protectionism and unilateralism.
The “Phase One” of a trade deal is close, according to US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham became the highest-ranking Australian official to visit China in a year, as Canberra attempts to ensure that cooling diplomatic relations do not hinder trade.
China presses Donald Trump for more tariff roll-backs in ‘phase one’ trade deal
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as progress seen on trade
China and US have ‘reached principled consensus’ on trade
XI JINPING REITERATES SUPPORT FOR HK LEADER CARRIE LAM
Chinese President Xi Jinping publicly backed the beleaguered leader of Hong Kong on Monday night, in his most direct public comments so far on the pro-democracy protests that have shaken the city for months and raised doubts about her political survival. Business activity in Hong Kong’s private sector fell to its weakest in 21 years in October.
China has said it will not tolerate anything that challenges the bottom line of the “one country, two systems” formula that governs Hong Kong.
Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterates support for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in Shanghai meeting
Missed opportunity for Hong Kong to showcase ‘one country, two systems’ formula
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam dismisses ‘malicious’ report she will be replaced
China says no plan to replace Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, dismisses report
CYPRUS WILL REVOKE JHO LOW’S PASSPORT
Cyprus’ president has pledged to revoke any of his island republic’s passports found to have been “mistakenly” granted to wealthy overseas investors under a controversial cash-for-citizenship programme, after it was reported that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, was given a passport from the island state in 2015. Mr Low is reported to have been using several passports to criss-cross the globe.
Malaysian fugitive financier Jho Low has Cyprus passport, bought villa on Mediterranean island: Report
Malaysia’s top law officers say getting Jho Low remains top priority
Jho Low’s deal will recover more of 1MDB loot but unlikely to sit well with Malaysia
Altered states: The many possible faces of Jho Low
MICROSOFT JAPAN WORKS LESS, BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY
After spending August experimenting with a four-day work week in a country notorious for overwork, Microsoft Japan said sales per employee rose 40 per cent compared with the same month last year.
What would Jack Ma think of this?
Just to survive at Alibaba, you need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, Mr Ma said in April as he endorsed the industry’s notorious 996 work culture – that is, 9am to 9pm, six days a week.
Part-time job seekers and companies get help to try out working arrangements
China’s tech giants under fire for long work hours
Singapore workers clock fewer hours over 8 years: Manpower Ministry Report
The kindest cut: Inn reduces work hours – yet staff pay rises 40%
IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
NEW ZEALAND PM’S VIDEO GOES VIRAL: In a two-minute challenge video, PM Jacinda Ardern breathlessly lists the achievements of her government’s first two years.
MALAYSIA LOOKS FOR MORE 1MDB LOOT: Malaysia is looking to locate at least S$5.9 billion worth of further assets linked to the scandal at state fund 1MDB, and is working with at least five nations to recover the amount. Most of the funds raised by 1MDB were reported to have been pumped into PetroSaudi International (PSI).
INDIA’S TOP COURT SLAMS ‘ATROCIOUS’ POLLUTION: Delhi and its adjoining areas continued to battle high pollution levels in a situation the Supreme Court called “atrocious” as it pulled up state authorities for failing to tackle the problem effectively.
These insights are produced by The Straits Times, the official media partner for the Asia House Global Trade Dialogue, taking place in Singapore on 7 November 2019.
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