Ten Southeast Asian countries said on Tuesday they would commence talks about forming a new trade bloc that would include China and five other regional economies but exclude the US, The New York Times reported. The pact, to be called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, would start in 2015 and include almost half the world’s population, according to the founding nations, who belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The new initiative comes as China faces pressure from some ASEAN members at a summit meeting to address territorial and maritime conflicts in the South China Sea. The new bloc appears to be a challenge to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact which excludes China but involves many of the same nations.
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