ASEAN makes progress on trade, not on sea disputes

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Southeast Asian leaders are upbeat today about progress made on an ambitious plan to weld the region into a European Union-style economic community as a counterweight to Asian powerhouse China, while efforts were stalling on South China Sea disputes.

Leaders attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Brunei had hoped China would soon agree to start talks on a nonaggression pact. But China has given no clear indication when it would agree to negotiate such a stopgap accord.

Meanwhile, an ambitious plan to transform ASEAN into an E.U.-like community of more than 600 million people by the end of 2015 has sparked more optimism, with diplomats saying the bloc was on track to meet the deadline.

About 77 percent of the work to turn the bustling region into a single market and production base, first laid out in a 2007 blueprint, have been done, according to a confidential draft statement to be issued after the summit.

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