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Xi intensifies Asia Pacific FTA push
November 18, 2015, 9:08 am

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the APEC CEO summit in Manila, the Philippines, Nov. 18, 2015 [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the APEC CEO summit in Manila, the Philippines, Nov. 18, 2015 [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday intensified an Asia Pacific FTA push while attending the APEC Leaders summit in Manila.

Xi is promoting the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as a way to promote regional economic integration.

Xi made the comments at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit, while noting that “the constant emergence of new regional free trade deals has given rise to worries about fragmentation”, in what could be read as veiled criticism of the US-led TPP which has excluded major world economies like China and India.

Chinese agency Xinhua quoted Xi suggesting that “the openness and inclusiveness of free trade arrangements be strengthened to the greatest extent on the basis of equal participation and ample consultation”.

Recalling that APEC leaders made a historic step in 2014 in Beijing by launching the FTAAP process, he called for concerted efforts to boost the openness of the Asia-Pacific economy and safeguard multilateral trade systems.

“We need to devote ourselves to win-win cooperation, resist protectionism and facilitate fair competition,” added the president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also criticised on Tuesday the way the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is being arranged, saying the “clandestine talks” do not promote stability in Asia Pacific.

“The confidential fashion in which the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations were conducted is probably not the best way to facilitate sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region,” Putin said in an article published on the Kremlin website.

“We should continue our course of bolstering APEC’s role as a coordinator of various integration initiatives aimed at developing in the region a common and open market, free of discrimination and bloc-based barriers. Here, effective implementation of the Beijing roadmap for APEC’s contribution to establishing an Asia-Pacific free trade zone, approved in Beijing in 2014, is particularly important,” he added.

At the APEC Summit that follows the G20, leaders will also take stock of the mammoth China-backed Asia Pacific FTA negotiations launched during last year’s summit in Beijing.

The Beijing-backed roadmap for this ambitious FTA would be studied over the next year.

The FTA, if implemented, will add an estimated $2.4 trillion to the global economy, says a survey by Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC).

The survey also said the US-led TPP trade pact, when completed, will add about $223 billion and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) about $644 billion.

“Although APEC is not a platform for trade negotiation, it clearly has an increasingly important role to play in facilitating the preparatory work and efforts towards materializing an FTAAP,” said Don Campbell, co-chair of PECC.

Beijing is trying to counter US’ progress in forming the Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China by this alternate mega Free Trade Agreement in the Asia Pacific.

Russian President Putin has said Moscow will also support China’s push for a roadmap on the Asia Pacific FTA.

“Obviously, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is just another U.S. attempt to build an architecture of regional economic cooperation that the USA would benefit from. At the same time, I believe that the absence of two major regional players such as Russia and China in its composition will not promote the establishment of effective trade and economic cooperation,” Putin said last year.

A Wall Street Journal report earlier last year said the US was trying to block China’s efforts at introducing the Asia Pacific FTA negotiations.

Beijing is claiming that this mega Asia Pacific FTA, proposed as early as 2006, is “not in conflict” with the TPP or the RCEP as both are “possible routes to it” and will aim to lower trade barriers across the region.

The China-led RCEP is a 16-nation trade bloc which includes the ASEAN plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

China and India are not included in the US-led TPP trade pact.

The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) has become a new objective for APEC regional integration, said Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, adding that China is willing to work together with relevant parties to complete a collective strategic study of the FTAAP by the end of 2016.

The Asia-Pacific countries accounts for 40 per cent of world population, 48 per cent of world trade and 57 per cent of global output.

President Xi’s presence at the APEC summit shows China’s support to the host country and that China attaches great importance to APEC process, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi a week ago during a working visit to the Philippines.


TBP and Agencies