Member-States of the forum of East Asia Summit (EAS), including India and China, on Saturday expressed themselves against “all forms of protectionism in trade and investment.”

At a “working lunch” in Bangkok, the EAS Trade and Economic Ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to maintain open markets and reject all forms of protectionism.” A new aspect of emphasis was the collective rejection of protectionism relating to investment flows across national frontiers. Also outlined was a commitment that each of the EAS countries would seek to “rectify... as promptly as possible” any recourse to protection in respect of trade and investment.

The EAS forum consists of all 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six dialogue partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

China was represented by Commerce Minister Chen Deming and India by its Ambassador to Thailand, Latha Reddy. Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had earlier represented India at its annual consultations with the ASEAN and signed a free trade agreement with that trade bloc. Both those events also took place in Bangkok on Thursday.

The latest anti-protectionism chorus of the EAS forum is politically resonant because of its current exploratory moves to enter into a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA).

On Saturday, the Ministers agreed to recommend that the summit-level leaders of the forum, scheduled to meet in Thailand later this year, consider the feasibility of CEPEA on the basis of a now-available study report.