Trump absent, ASEAN charts path for trade bloc led by China

Leaders from fast-growing Southeast Asian economies, China, Japan and other regional powers are meeting in Bangkok for an annual summit that President Donald Trump is skipping so that he can campaign back home.

The annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations formally began Sunday with its host, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, saying the group intends to reach a basic agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a 16-member trade bloc encompassing nearly a third of all global trade.

Prayut says the aim was to have a final deal by next year.

ASEAN also hopes to set a code of conduct with China regarding disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says Beijing was intent on maintaining stability in the region in turbulent times.

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