US, Asean agree to push for trade pact

Busan, Nov 18 | Updated: Nov 19 2005, 07:02am hrs
The United States and Southeast Asian nations have agreed to work for a region-wide trade and investment agreement as part of efforts to improve ties clouded by a dispute over Myanmar.

Both sides released a joint vision statement on the Asean-US enhanced partnership ahead of Fridays meeting between seven Southeast Asian leaders and US president George W Bush at a regional summit here.

The statement said Asean and the United States had agreed to launch a partnership covering cooperation in the political, security, economic, social and development fields.

On the economic front, the two parties agreed to work together to conclude a region-wide Asean-United States trade and investment framework agreement, said the statement.

A Southeast Asian trade official attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum here said the statement could lay the groundwork for a US-Asean free trade pact.

The US is playing catch up, said the trade official, asking to remain anonymous, pointing out that Asean is already in talks for a region-wide free trade agreement with China and Japan to be completed by 2010.