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China to aid regional integration of APEC members

Zhong Nan
Updated: Nov 5,2014 7:45 AM     China Daily

The country has signaled that it will help developing economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings to improve their negotiating ability to accelerate the pace of regional economic integration.

Zhang Shaogang, director-general of the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce, said China will work closely with other APEC members, especially developing economies, to strengthen their ability to participate in international and regional trade negotiations.

This would lay a solid foundation for a free and fair regional market, he said.

Wang Shouwen, the assistant minister of commerce, said China is willing to take the lead in working with other APEC members to draft a road map for the organization’s contribution to the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

The aim would be to tackle challenges arising from trade protectionism and the slow recovery of the global economy.

“This would help to improve the sharing of information among prospective FTAAP countries, as well as offering policy transparency over the development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” said Wang.

The TPP and RCEP are proposed multilateral agreements that are currently under discussion. The TPP initiative is being led by the United States, while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is promoting the RCEP.

Both proposals are supported by China, though it has not yet joined the TPP negotiations. The US is not participating, or qualified to participate, in the RCEP talks because this would require it to sign a free trade agreement with ASEAN.

Wang said all APEC members support the idea of a regional free trade area, and there are no barriers or conflicts that would prevent its creation.

More than 50 bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements covering free trade zones have been implemented by economies in the APEC region.

China believes a FTAAP would help to integrate these existing agreements and reduce the risk of overlap and fragmentation.

Trade between China and other APEC members last year amounted to $2.5 trillion, or 60 percent of the country’s total trade volume, and 69 percent of China’s outbound direct investment went to APEC economies. APEC members provided 83 percent of foreign investment.

The FTAAP concept was proposed in 2004 and written into the declaration of the APEC economic leaders’ meeting in 2006. China proposed the preparation of a feasibility study earlier this year.

The Foreign Ministry said the process will be launched during the upcoming APEC economic leaders’ meeting.

Wang Zhile, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said goods and services trade volume has expanded more rapidly than previously in the APEC region over the last decade.

“Future trade growth will be driven by a well-developed regional free trade zone and improved economic cooperation system between different members,” he added.

APEC was established in 1989 and has played a significant role in driving global and regional economic growth. Its 21 members contributed approximately 57 percent of the world’s GDP and 46 percent of world trade last year.

Wang Zhile said: “From a long-term perspective, the APEC economies will enjoy the benefits of international trade liberalization through the elimination of traditional trade barriers and high tariff rates.

“The growing level of international cooperation and the involvement of global companies within a FTAAP could bring new growth points to different countries, with increasing flows of foreign direct investment, jobs and new technologies.”