Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

China to push alternative trade pact at APEC: minister

AFP, BEIJING

China will seek to push its own vision of an Asia-Pacific trade pact at a regional summit next week, senior officials said yesterday, just weeks after the release of a rival US-led deal that pointedly excludes the Asian giant.

Beijing sought to promote the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) at last year’s APEC summit, which it hosted.

At the meeting’s close, participants endorsed efforts to explore the idea, which was seen as a potential rival to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Washington-led trade coalition that includes the region’s largest economies, except for China.

Little has been heard of the FTAAP since, while the long-secret text of the TPP deal was released on Thursday last week, receiving cheers from global business interests and jeers from labor, environmental and health groups, which vowed to fight its ratification.

China said it would report the findings of a study on FTAAP at next week’s APEC summit in the Philippines, to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

“We need to actively work for the establishment of FTAAP,” Chinese Vice Minister of Finance Wang Shouwen (王受文) told a briefing, adding that FTAAP would be “a facilitator for regional integration in APEC.”

It would be the world’s largest free-trade area, encompassing TPP and other regional frameworks.

APEC’s 21 members account for more than 50 percent of global GDP and nearly half of world trade.

Although it gathers some of the world’s most important leaders, the group’s annual meeting is better known for its group photographs of powerful people in matching shirts than for substantive deals.

However, Wang said China remains hopeful that the group would complete a road map for establishing the FTAAP framework.

“Our objective is to complete the joint strategic study next year and to present operable suggestions and recommendations to the leaders at next year’s summit,” he said.

China has latched onto the FTAAP, first proposed by APEC in 2006, as a hedge against the US-led TPP, a key element of Washington’s “Asia pivot.”

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