Pacific Rim economies are debating whether to give APEC the power to negotiate free-trade pacts, a move that could pave the way for a massive free-trade zone that lowers tariffs on goods from electronics to food.
Members of the APEC forum are using their annual gathering this week to discuss changing the toothless organization into one with enough authority to negotiate a binding Pacific-wide free-trade agreement, Japanese officials said yesterday.
If realized, it would encompass 44 percent of global trade and more than half the world economy. However, it also has the potential to batter farmers in countries like Japan and South Korea, where an array of agricultural products are protected by high tariffs.
Leaders including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) gathering this weekend in Yokohama for the APEC summit will agree to take steps toward such a sweeping free trade agreement, according to a draft of the final communique obtained by the Associated Press. It gave no timeframe.
However, to forge such a trade treaty, APEC would have to become a negotiating body, a big change from what it is now — a forum started in 1989 to promote trade and investment throughout the Pacific, but without any real powers.
APEC members such as the US and Japan are in favor of moving toward the Pacific-wide free-trade area — officially known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific — but others like Indonesia and the Philippines are reluctant, preferring to keep it as a vague, long-term goal.
Experts have also said it is an unrealistic objective given the complexity and huge variation among the 21 member economies, which range from Papua New Guinea to China and the US.
Still, the idea of an APEC free trade zone, first floated by the US at the 2006 summit in Hanoi has gained momentum as a way to harmonize the proliferation of bilateral and regional free trade pacts within the region and amid frustration with stalled WTO talks.
As steps toward creating a Pacific-wide free-trade area, the leaders are expected to endorse possible smaller regional free-trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the US and four other countries — Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Peru — are negotiating to join. It currently consists of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
Malcolm Cook, the East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, said the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific is probably a “non-starter.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership “will take its place as the most likely path for a regional agreement” partly because it doesn’t include China, making it easier to negotiate, he said.
The annual APEC summit is being held against a backdrop of tension over currencies and territorial disputes that could overshadow its official agenda, which is strictly economic. Japan is embroiled in spats with China and Russia over disputed islands.
One of week’s goals is to draw up an overarching economic growth strategy for members that emphasizes innovation and is compatible with efforts to protect the environment. Developed nations will also be evaluated on their progress in reaching APEC’s goal set in 1994 to achieve free trade and investment by next year.
SAFETY RISK: The government is working to categorize countries based on their COVID-19 cases and prevention efforts, which would determine quarantine periods The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers yesterday. “We would divide countries around the world into several categories. One category would comprise those countries with very few confirmed COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand and Palau. Travelers from the countries in this category would only need to practice self-health management,” Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a Legislative Yuan seminar hosted by
CASH BOOST: Foreign spouses with residency permits are also eligible for the coupons, which can be bought at post offices or linked to digital payment options Stimulus coupons for Taiwanese and foreign spouses with residency permits can be ordered starting on July 1 and can be used from July 15 to Dec. 31, the Executive Yuan said yesterday. Aimed at boosting domestic spending, the coupons worth NT$3,000 (US$100.04) are to cost NT$1,000. “For our consumers, this is a very good deal as they get three times as much value for their money,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a news conference in Taipei. While the coupons are to have a wide range of uses, including at department stores, restaurants, book stores, night markets, beauty and hair salons, hotels, and to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
RELATIONSHIP ‘TERMINATED’: US Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the president’s action was ‘an act of extraordinary senselessness,’ a tone Chinese media echoed US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that Washington would withdraw funding from the WHO, end Hong Kong’s special trade status and suspend visas of Chinese graduate students suspected of conducting research on behalf of their government. Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about the outbreak. “We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” he said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be