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12 Nov, 2014

Xi: APEC economies to launch Free Trade Area process

(Xinhua) BEIJING – 2014-11-11: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) members’ endorsement of a roadmap for promoting the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) process was “a decision to be written into history books”, Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Tuesday.

The move was “a historic step we took in the direction towards realizing the FTAAP,” marking the official launch of the FTAAP process and demonstrating the confidence and determination of the APEC in advancing regional economic integration, he said at a press conference after the conclusion of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

The decision will bring the integration to a new and higher level, benefit economies at various development stages across the Pacific Ocean and inject new energy into the growth of the region and APEC members, the president said.

“We have reached consensus that regional economic integration is the driving force behind sustained strong growth in the Asia-Pacific, and APEC should continue to play a leading and coordinating role in pushing forward this process,” he noted.

The final approval of the roadmap came days after APEC ministers reached consensus on it on Nov.8.

A declaration released after the economic leaders’ meeting said APEC members have decided to kick off and advance the FTAAP process “in a comprehensive and systematic manner”.

The members have agreed to launch “a collective strategic study” on the FTAAP and instruct officials to undertake the study, consult stakeholders and report the result by the end of 2016, according to the declaration.

It also noted the FTAAP will be realized on the basis of the conclusion of the ongoing pathways, which include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Both TPP and RCEP are regional free trade arrangements under negotiation but each of them involves only some of the region’s economies, while talks on both arrangements have been stalled by divisions among the negotiators.

Xi has said the FTAAP can be the “aggregation” of existing free trade arrangements.

“The FTAAP does not go against existing free trade arrangements, which are the potential pathways to realize the FTAAP goals,” Xi said when speaking at the dialogue between APEC leaders and representatives of the APEC Business Advisory Council on Monday.

The FTAAP should aim to minimize any negative effects resulting from the proliferation of regional and bilateral trade arrangements and will be pursued by building on current and developing regional architectures, according to the APEC’s roadmap on the FTAAP.

“Greater efforts should be made to concluding the possible pathways to the FTAAP, including the TPP and RCEP,” the document said.

It noted APEC members will increase the transparency of existing and recently concluded trade arrangements by advancing work under an information sharing mechanism.

In addition, efforts will be made to build up economies’ capacity to participate in ongoing regional trade arrangements and realize the FTAAP, it said.