The Jakarta Post
The 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting was officially opened on Thursday with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressing the importance of supporting ASEAN as a multilateral system amid growing nationalism and protectionism.
Lee mentioned ongoing trade tensions between the United States and other ASEAN dialogue partners, including China, the European Union and Canada.
"The rules-based multilateral trading system, which has underpinned ASEAN's growth and prosperity is under pressure," Lee, who acts as chairman of ASEAN this year, said in the annual meeting in Singapore.
Nevertheless, Lee said he was glad ASEAN was redoubling efforts to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of the year.
"It will be the world's largest trading bloc, covering a third of the world's GDP," he said.
The RCEP comprises ASEAN countries and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
While the meetings commence on Thursday, the highly anticipated ASEAN plus Three, East Asia Summit Ministerial and ASEAN Regional Forum meetings will be held on Saturday.
Foreign ministers of ASEAN dialogue partners, such as the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia are in attendance.