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» As Vietnam is poised to take over the rotational chair of Asean in January 2020, its second foremost foreign policy priority after the South China Sea is reportedly the Mekong River region. While the South China Sea, where more than one third of global shipping passes, is considered an overall Asean concern, the Mekong region is left to the five riparian countries in mainland Southeast Asia to deal with in view of China's upstream hydropower dams that have led to frequent droughts and depleted fish stocks in downstream communities, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam.
» On the face of it, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is an Indo-Pacific trade pact that would shore up the stalled world trade liberalisation and stem the rising tide of protectionism in the global economy. India's withdrawal from the RCEP -- whose other 15 members comprise the 10 Asean economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand -- is a major setback, posing new challenges for the Asean-centred trade bloc. Asean should persuade India to return to the RCEP fold, while preparing for a much less promising RCEP15 as second-best outcome.
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