BANGKOK, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called for strengthened economic integration among the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to counter protectionism and global trade tensions, a government statement said on Sunday.
Speaking on a plenary session of the 35th ASEAN Summit here in Bangkok on Saturday night, Duterte expressed alarm over protectionism and ongoing global trade tensions that undermine the progress of the ASEAN economies, including the Philippines.
"We need an open and rules-based trading system to sustain growth. Thus, we should ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the World Trade Organization, " Duterte said.
"ASEAN must accelerate deeper economic integration through concrete programs and projects, such as RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership)," he added.
RCEP, initiated by ASEAN in 2012, is a proposed regional free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 member states of the association and the six FTA partners of ASEAN -- China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said RCEP is seeing a "very positive development" during the 35th ASEAN Summit and all members hoped the RCEP negotiations can be finished by February 2020.
Duterte also called on ASEAN to ensure environmental sustainability and protect biodiversity in the region's pursuit for development. ASEAN should not sacrifice the environment and the region's rich biodiversity, particularly in the maritime domain, in its quest for progress.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thailand, the rotating chair of the ASEAN for 2019, is holding the 35th ASEAN Summit and the related summits on Nov. 2-4.