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Newsline: Asian Diplomats Say New Zealand Won’t Engage Myanmar

Two Asian diplomats told The Associated Press that New Zealand notified other members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes China but not the United States, that it would not recognize Myanmar’s “instrument of ratification” — the key document binding a country to the free trade pact — because it opposes its military-led government. It’s not immediately clear if New Zealand’s action would lead to Myanmar’s exclusion from RCEP. Asked by the AP for comment, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said “New Zealand has maintained a principled stance on Myanmar, and this includes our position that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership does not apply between New Zealand and Myanmar at this time.” “New Zealand remains gravely concerned at the situation in Myanmar and continues to call for the immediate cessation of violence and for the release of all those arbitrarily detained by the military regime,” the spokesperson said. (https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2022-02-17/new-zealand-wont-engage-myanmar-in-largest-free-trade-bloc) One of the two diplomats who spoke with the AP said ASEAN member states were individually assessing New Zealand’s action and may announce their position soon. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to discuss the issue publicly.ASEAN foreign ministers were meeting in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Thursday to discuss regional issues, including Myanmar. It’s unclear if New Zealand’s move against Myanmar would be raised, but the diplomat described the issue as “a big problem.” The punitive action underscores the growing fallout from the Myanmar crisis into the economic and diplomatic spheres. It remains unclear if other leading countries included in the RCEP, such as Japan, Australia and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which have also expressed alarm over Myanmar, would follow suit.

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