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Xi bats for ‘inclusive’ Asia Pacific free trade area
November 20, 2016, 5:46 am

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, Nov. 19, 2016 [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, Nov. 19, 2016 [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is readying an all-out push for a Beijing-led Asia-Pacific free trade area at a regional summit in Peru this week.

The FTAAP “is a strategic initiative critical for the long-term prosperity of the Asia-Pacific,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday while delivering a keynote speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Lima, Peru’s capital.

China has proposed the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which could substitute the dashed efforts for a US-led free trade deal, the TPP.

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

“We should firmly pursue the FTAAP as an institutional mechanism for ensuring an open economy in the Asia-Pacific,” Chinese President Xi told global business leaders in Peru.

A joint strategic study on the China-backed FTAAP has been completed and the final report with recommendations, will be presented to APEC leaders at the end of this year, according the Chinese state media reports.

In attendance at the APEC Summit this year: Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau, Shinzo Abe and Malcolm Turnbull and many others.

During his election campaign Trump opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) championed by President Barack Obama and called it a “disaster”.

In his speech on Saturday, Chinese President Xi called on the 21 APEC member economies to promote an open and integrated economy.

“The Asia-Pacific is under similar pressure and is grappling with such challenges as the fragmentation of regional economic cooperation,” Xi said.

Taking a dig at Obama’s TPP, China’s President said a “closed and exclusive” trade deal is counter-productive.

“For any regional trade arrangement to gain broad support, it must be open, inclusive and beneficial to all,” he said, adding that “closed and exclusive arrangement is not the right choice.”

None of the BRICS countries are included in the US-led TPP pact.

“We’re organising trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards,” Obama said at a presidential debate in 2012 referring to the TPP.

Meanwhile on Saturday in Lima, Chinese president Xi said that the APEC members must make free trade arrangements more open and inclusive, and uphold the multilateral trading regime.

Acknowledging that “economic globalization” is a “double-edged sword” and is greeted with “skepticism” these days, Xi said he still believes that economic globalization delivers benefits to all.

“We need to actively guide globalization, promote equity and justice, and make globalization more resilient, inclusive and sustainable, so that people will get a fair share of its benefits and will see that they have a stake in it,” he 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 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

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