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Asia Pacific Summit declaration highlights role of new China-backed FTA
November 20, 2015, 6:03 am

The Leaders of the 21 APEC member economies concluded their meeting in Manila, Philippines on 19 November 2015 [Xinhua]

The Leaders of the 21 APEC member economies concluded their meeting in Manila, Philippines on 19 November 2015 [Xinhua]

The 23nd APEC Ecomomic Leaders’ Meeting concluded in the Philippines on Thursday with a declaration reaffirming commitment to completing the China-proposed Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

“We reiterate our commitment to achieve the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment by 2020 and to the eventual realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP),” said the APEC Leaders’ Declaration.

World leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the economic summit of Asia Pacific nations (APEC) in Manila.

The 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Declaration highlighted the role of the China-backed FTAAP as the main force to promote regional integration. 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.

In November last year, APEC Leaders endorsed the “Beijing Roadmap for APEC’s Contribution to the Realization of FTAAP”.

“As we gather again one year after that, our goal is still to deepen Asia-Pacific cooperation and promote common development of the region,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday.

The roadmap provides a Collective Strategic Study on Issues related to the Realization of the FTAAP to be concluded by end of 2016, as well as enhanced information sharing and capacity building.

The study will provide an analysis of potential economic and social benefits and costs, analyze the various pathways and challenges towards creating the FTA.

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

Chinese President Xi has urged APEC members, including the US and Japan, to push for early realization of the new FTA.

“We need to advance regional integration and build an open Asia-Pacific economy,” said Xi.

In the process of formulating regional free trade agreements, Xi suggested, all related members should stay open and inclusive, seek cooperation of mutual benefit and safeguard the multilateral trade regime.

At an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit on Wednesday, Xi said “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.

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.

On Thursday in Manila, the Chinese leader also referred to the newly formed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as an important platform supporting regional connectivity.

Xi said the bank is expected to be formally established by the end of this year.

“China has the resolve, confidence and ability to realize sustained and healthy economic development and bring more opportunities and benefits to the Asia-Pacific region,” Xi said.

By pushing for a wider deal in the Asia Pacific that would equal the EU, China would also steal a march over the TPP championed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

However, if the Asia-Pacific FTA succeeds in materializing, it would finally bring the United States and China into an agreement to deepen trade liberalization, after more than a decade of failed talks.

 

TBP and Agencies 

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