Beijing Hosts APEC Summit

As leaders from member countries gather in Beijing for the APEC summit, China is reportedly taking advantage of the opportunity to promote its plans for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated by the United States which excludes China. However, Beijing’s attempts to include calls for an FTAAP feasibility study (with a target date of 2025) in the communiqué to be distributed to leaders at the end of the session was thwarted by the US, with a US trade representative spokesman announcing that the two countries will be working on a proposal for APEC to further FTAAP in a ‘long-term vision’ building on other trade deals. Analysts note that Washington wants to avoid distracting attention from the TPP which has already been battling to overcome obstacles related to intellectual property, agriculture, services and investments, as well as objections by various advocacy groups related to the expansive scope and lack of transparency of the agreement. Currently twelve countries are involved in TPP negotiations, being Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Established in 1989, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) includes 21 economies from the Pacific Rim region which promote free trade and economic cooperation between members. APEC members are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.

The APEC program kicks off with the Concluding Senior Officials’ Meeting (CSOM) and Fourth APEC Business Advisory Council Meeting, followed by the Apec Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and the APEC CEO Summit, concluding with the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM).

When asked whether the United States was attempting to stop the formation of the proposed FTAAP, assistant minister with China’s Ministry of Commerce, Wang Shouwen, was reported as saying that there are no blocks or conflicts, noting that the APEC gathering is a forum and not a platform for negotiation. However, China will be seeking to establish which APEC countries would support a free-trade zone with China, just not at the upcoming APEC summit.