East Asia Summit highlights competing free trade agreements

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A new free trade agreement was launched today at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, adding to the confusing array of bilateral and multilateral agreements across the region. Called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, it aims to promote trade by removing trade barriers across the Asia Pacific region. But US President Barack Obama and Julia Gillard also met today to discuss another separate trade agreement: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That agreement is being led by the US and focuses on regulation and intellectual property rights.

Australia is supporting both agreements, but some trade experts say that the the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership has been designed to protect US businesses, whereas the new agreement announced today really is trying to promote regional cooperation.

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