Beijing’s suc­cess­ful agenda-set­ting Out­comes from the week­long APEC gath­er­ing are clear ev­i­dence that China is ca­pa­ble of guid­ing in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity in the re­gion

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

The 2014 Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Eco­nomic Lead­ers’Week in Beijing came to­ward an end with the com­ple­tion of the two-day Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing on Tues­day evening. Not since the first APEC lead­ers’ meet­ing in Seat­tle 21 years ago, has such an APEC con­fer­ence been as fruit­ful.

That is not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Apart from the tra­di­tional business fo­rums, min­is­te­rial meet­ings and cul­tural per­for­mances, the on­line buzz­word “APEC blue”, a sar­cas­tic com­ment on Beijing’s un­com­monly blue sky over the past week, was even cited by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in his speech at a wel­come din­ner for the APEC lead­ers onMon­day. Xi’s pledge to make APEC blue days common shows China’s re­solve to bal­ance its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment with en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Of course, the big­gest achieve­ment of all, given the en­larg­ing fis­sures in the re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion that mem­bers have pur­sued in re­cent years, was that all APEC mem­bers agreed to work on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific. Prior to this agree­ment, the US-led Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, in­volv­ing Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, was at odds with the Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship, sup­ported by China and the mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased after the APEC Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing, mem­ber economies will now be­gin study­ing is­sues such as the free trade of in­vest­ments, com­modi­ties, and ser­vices. This is a rarely seen con­sen­sus be­tween all APEC economies since the White House launched the TPP ne­go­ti­a­tions in 2010.

Sec­ond, aside from eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and free trade, this year’s APEC meet­ing also re­sulted in an agree­ment to strengthen po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity-re­lated co­op­er­a­tion within the Asia-Pa­cific. The APEC lead­ers have jointly pledged to work to­gether to tackle press­ing is­sues such as ter­ror­ism and cor­rup­tion. This has al­ready pro­duced a num­ber of prag­matic moves, such as the set­ting up of a cross-bor­der re­gional anti-cor­rup­tion net­work.

Al­beit the APEC meet­ings still pri­or­i­tized re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, they did open win­dows of op­por­tu­nity for face-to-face meet­ings be­tween lead­ers, which of­fered new­mo­men­tum to some oth­er­wise frozen is­sues. It is a pity that a meet­ing be­tween US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin did not work out given the se­ri­ous con­fronta­tion that has erupted be­tweenWash­ing­ton andMoscow over the Ukrainian cri­sis. How­ever, that should not over­shadow the other im­por­tant meet­ings that did take place.

Short as it was, the 25-minute meet­ing be­tween Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi and Ja­panese PrimeMin­is­ter Shinzo Abe onMon­day was the first of its kind since the two lead­ers took of­fice. It has been hailed by many as a ma­jor step to­ward im­prove­ment in re­la­tions be­tween China and Ja­pan, as the two coun­tries have agreed to re­sume po­lit­i­cal, diplo­matic and se­cu­rity di­a­logues while ac­knowl­edg­ing their dif­fer­ent po­si­tions on the Diaoyu Is­lands.

In ad­di­tion, dur­ing a brief con­ver­sa­tion with the Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino on the side­lines of the Eco­nomic Lead­ers’Meet­ing, Aquino gave Xi his word that he would seek to im­prove the bi­lat­eral ties and solve the two coun­tries’ sovereignty dis­putes in the South China Sea. Also, talks be­tween Xi and Obama onWed­nes­day pro­duced con­crete ac­tions to push for­ward their ear­lier con­sen­sus to build a new­type of ma­jor-coun­try re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and the US, sig­nal­ing that both sides will shelve their dif­fer­ences in global gov­er­nance in a bid to strengthen their bi­lat­eral ties.

More­over, the Con­nec­tiv­ity Blue­print for 2015-25 adopted by all the APEC mem­bers on Tues­day, once im­ple­mented, will sub­stan­tially strengthen phys­i­cal, in­sti­tu­tional and peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­nec­tiv­ity and pro­mote re­gional bonds in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

This blue­print, which pro­poses fu­ture ini­tia­tives for a more ef­fi­cient flow of goods, ser­vices, cap­i­tal and peo­ple, is ex­pected to bring the APEC com­mu­nity one step closer to in­clu­sive in­te­gra­tion via con­crete ef­forts such as the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank and Chi­naASEAN Free Trade Zone.

The APEC economies, rep­re­sent­ing two-fifths of the world pop­u­la­tion, 56 per­cent of world’s eco­nomic out­put, and 48 per­cent of world trade, will surely be able to boost both the re­gional and global econ­omy through con­struc­tive mul­ti­lat­eral co­or­di­na­tion.

In par­tic­u­lar, Beijing’s con­crete ef­forts, such as the $10 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to support the APEC in­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment and ca­pac­ity build­ing, has fur­ther proved its cen­tral role in the re­al­iza­tion of re­gional in­te­gra­tion and an Asia-Pa­cific dream of shared pros­per­ity. The au­thor is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Col­lab­o­ra­tive In­no­va­tion Cen­ter of South China Sea Stud­ies and pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Nan­jing Univer­sity.

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