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'Progress likely' on Asia-Pacific free trade pact

2014-08-21 10:14 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing
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State Councilor Yang Jiechi (center) attends the opening ceremony of the Third Senior Officials' Meeting of the APEC 2014 in Beijing on Aug 20. [Provided to China Daily]

State Councilor Yang Jiechi (center) attends the opening ceremony of the Third Senior Officials' Meeting of the APEC 2014 in Beijing on Aug 20. [Provided to China Daily]

Asia-Pacific officials urged to take the initiative in building open economy

Progress will be made on an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement this year, including the design of a road map for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's contribution to the pact, as regional leaders work to translate a longstanding goal into reality, State Councilor Yang Jiechi said on Wednesday.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the Third Senior Officials' Meeting of APEC 2014, Yang also urged Asia-Pacific leaders to "take the lead in building an open economy driven by innovation, interconnection and integration and continue to usher the world economic recovery".

China is the host of the 2014 APEC. The two-day meeting known as SOM3, which ends on Thursday, is being held in Beijing. It is part of the preparations for the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting to be held from Nov 10 to 11.

"The world is increasingly becoming an interwoven global village ... the strategic role of the Asia-Pacific has never been as important as today," Yang said. "Different cooperation mechanisms and emerging initiatives in the region show the strong willingness of all members to strengthen cooperation.

"The region's developing momentum is unprecedentedly robust with freer flows of capital, information and labor and a megamarket basically established ... the Asia-Pacific region has become the area with the world's fastest economic growth, greatest potential and most active cooperation.

"It is thus an important part of the global economic recovery. Cooperation opportunities in the region have never been as rich as today," he said.

The 21 APEC economies account for 40 percent of the world's population, 57 percent of the world's GDP and 46 percent of global trade.

Yang urged the members to promote cooperation while upholding opening-up and inclusiveness and boosting innovative development.

"All the economies have realized the importance and urgency of reforms and innovation, and progress should be made in the areas of Asia-Pacific economic integration, innovative development, promoting reform, finding new areas of growth and strengthening connectivity," Yang said.

The members are "holding discussions to draft an interconnectivity blueprint, which will be the programmatic document for guiding the APEC interconnectivity cooperation", Yang said. "China is a member of the Asia-Pacific family and is willing to boost the region's development with its own development and provide new impetus for the region's prosperity with its own reforms and development," he said.

A report submitted by the Chinese delegation to SOM3 said that economic integration efforts in the Asia-Pacific region "have reached a critical stage, facing both opportunities and challenges".

Regional and free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the China-Japan-South Korea FTA, have proliferated, and some of these pacts overlap.

APEC leaders proposed a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific in 2006. APEC trade ministers in May agreed to develop a pragmatic, step-by-step guide for the trade zone.

China proposed that APEC launch a feasibility study on the realization of a trade zone, which would be "a substantial step forward in 2014, beginning the process and laying solid groundwork for the eventual realization of an FTAAP", said the Chinese delegation's report to SOM3.

"We will pursue an FTAAP with a step-by-step, consensus-based approach" with the goal of achieving a pact by 2025, said the Chinese report.

Tomo Uyama, deputy director-general of the Economic Affairs Bureau and Latin American & Caribbean Affairs Bureau of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that "how exactly (the study) will be done is up for consideration. I don't know when (it will start), so ... we are kind of looking in the same direction and considering what's the realistic way to do it.

"There is firm agreement already that we should push this regional integration. We talked about the pathway to the FTAAP. Not everyone agrees fully, but we still have common views," Uyama said.

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