Tuesday, November 20, 2007

US Rules Out Free-Trade Deal with ASEAN, Citing Burma

Source: The Nation

Singapore - Current political conditions in Burma make a free-trade deal between the United States and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) impossible in the near term, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

The relationship "can't be business as usual," she said as ASEAN readied for Tuesday's signing of a landmark charter giving the 40-year-old regional grouping legal status and committing the members to pursuing human rights, democracy and a blueprint for economic integration by 2015.

ASEAN leaders recognize that the bloc's reputation and credibility have been undermined by the situation in military-ruled Burma, where troops fired on peaceful protesters in September, killing at least 15.

Schwab, who is on a two-day visit to Singapore, met Monday with economic ministers to discuss progress made under the US-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement, signed a year ago.

"The issue of Burma did come up, and I expressed our concern," she told reporters. "ASEAN has special responsibility when it comes to the situation in Burma."

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