He said the worldwide order is "at a turning point" and it's unclear if the rules of the global system that have underpinned the region's peace and growing wealth will survive.
China is pushing the RCEP deal - Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told reporters on Thursday it "will be of great significance for deepening regional cooperation, coping with unilateralism and protectionism, and promoting an open, inclusive and rules-based global trading system".
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), covering half the world's population, is billed as an antidote to President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda, which has seen tariffs imposed on nearly half of all Chinese imports to the U.S. - and retaliatory levies by Beijing.
Participants say India, for one, is balking at opening its markets wider to imports from China under the accord, dubbed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). He hopes the deal can be reached as soon as possible to send a positive signal on promoting multilateralism and free trade.
Lee said the Singaporean side is glad to see the upgrade of the project, and ready to step up smart-city cooperation with China.
Trump's security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters on Tuesday that the ASEAN meetings tended to be relatively flexible and Pence's schedule was still being decided, but that some would be aimed at preparing for a meeting between China's president and Trump at the G-20 meeting in Argentina later this month.
He did not acknowledge the delay but noted that the RCP talks had "entered the most critical stage of the negotiations, with a greater focus on market access for goods, investments, and services".
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New tariffs imposed by the US and China on billions of dollars of each other's products in a dispute over technology policy and other issues have begun to bite.
"All countries are linked in the same industrial chain in the world today and China and the US are an important part of it".
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying yesterday that Beijing hopes its talks with South-east Asian nations on a COC in the South China Sea will bear fruit in three years.
Moon also plans to host a separate summit between Korea and the Mekong River countries of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
The globalization of manufacturing has been a key factor driving dynamic growth in the regional economy, which has more than doubled in size since 2007 to $2.8 trillion in 2017.
Trade tensions between the United States and China will create a "domino effect" and prompt other countries to turn protectionist, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. "Of course for the Philippines, we are looking at the overall balance across areas to ensure all Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of this economic partnership", he added.
While talks on the ASEAN-centered trade accord stumble along, the 11 countries that have remained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are preparing to inaugurate their revised trade deal.