Free trade still the pri­or­ity for APEC

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

The 2016 Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion Eco­nomic Lead­ers’Meet­ing, to be held in Lima, Peru, on Satur­day and Sun­day, will see the lead­ers of 21 mem­ber economies ex­change views on eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and trans-Pa­cific co­op­er­a­tion.

As the only APEC mem­ber of the An­dean Com­mu­nity and the host of this year’s APEC meet­ing, Peru has en­joyed close eco­nomic re­la­tions with other economies in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion since it joined the 21-mem­ber bloc in 1998. And that it has made “qual­ity growth and hu­man devel­op­ment” the theme of the APEC meet­ing re­flects its pur­suit of qual­ity and eq­ui­table growth in the re­gion.

In other words, APEC mem­bers be­lieve eco­nomic growth should even­tu­ally im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, which is in line with the qual­ity growth con­sen­sus reached by the bloc’s lead­ers at last year’s meet­ing in­Manila. This in turn will help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries re­al­ize their prom­ise to re­duce poverty, nar­row the in­come gap and pro­mote in­clu­sive growth with stronger eco­nomic per­for­mance.

Com­pared with the APEC meet­ing in­Manila which put em­pha­sis on in­sti­tu­tional over­haul, so­cial in­te­gra­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal-pro­tec­tion, the Lima meet­ing is likely to seek so­lu­tions to ad­vance re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and qual­ity growth, ex­pand the re­gional food mar­ket, mod­ern­ize mi­cro-, small- and medium-sized en­ter­prises, and de­velop hu­man cap­i­tal.

Be­sides, how to deepen eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion within the re­gion to al­low the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific to play a key role should also be high on the agenda of the APEC lead­ers at­tend­ing the Lima meet­ing.

Dur­ing the Bei­jing 2014 APEC meet­ing, the “Bei­jing Roadmap for APEC’s Con­tri­bu­tion to the Real­iza­tion of the FTAAP” was hailed as a mile­stone doc­u­ment, lead­ing to a col­lec­tive strate­gic study over the past two years on the fea­si­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity of the cross-border ini­tia­tive. That’s why the eightchap­ter re­port on the sub­ject to be un­veiled in Lima will be closely watched.

Of course, the com­ple­tion of the re­port is just the be­gin­ning, be­cause a timetable for FTAAP ne­go­ti­a­tions can­not be fixed un­less all APEC mem­bers agree with the re­port. That could take time and del­i­cate diplo­matic ma­neu­ver­ing, even as more con­tri­bu­tions are ex­pected from the Pa­cific Al­liance, com­pris­ing Chile, Peru, Mex­ico and Colom­bia, to ex­pe­dite eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion.

Amid in­creas­ing con­cerns over cli­mate change, food se­cu­rity is

likely to be an­other pri­or­ity for APEC mem­bers. As an agri­cul­tural coun­try, Peru has al­ways been in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the in­ter­na­tional food mar­ket. So it is likely to pur­sue fur­ther im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Bo­ra­cay Ac­tion Agenda to Glob­al­ize MSMEs (mi­cro-, small- and medium-sized en­ter­prises) ap­proved at the 2015Manila meet­ing. Pri­or­ity will also be given to the devel­op­ment of hu­man cap­i­tal to op­ti­mize re­gional growth.

High hopes have been placed on China, the world’s se­cond-largest econ­omy and a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the APEC com­mu­nity, against the back­drop of lack­lus­ter global growth, rise of trade pro­tec­tion­ism and in­creas­ingly frag­mented re­gional in­te­gra­tion. As a de­ter­mined en­dorser of the FTAAP, Bei­jing is more than will­ing to make ex­tra ef­forts to up­hold mul­ti­lat­eral trade un­der the frame­work of the­World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion and fight against pro­tec­tion­ism.

There­fore, the Lima meet­ing is an an apt oc­ca­sion for China and other APEC economies to vow to im­prove re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity, in­ten­sify ur­ban­iza­tion and ex­pand the in­ter­net-based econ­omy, which have all yielded ex­cel­lent re­sults in China. The author is a se­nior re­search fel­low at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Strat­egy, Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences, and chief re­search fel­low at the Chi­naASEAN Re­search In­sti­tute, Guangxi Univer­sity .

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