APEC wary trade pact could be­come ‘rich-econ­omy club’

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

MANILA: APEC does not want to see a United States-led free-trade agree­ment be­come a “rich-econ­omy club”, a se­nior fo­rum of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day. Speak­ing ahead of an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit in the Philip­pine cap­i­tal Manila, Alan Bol­lard, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the APEC sec­re­tariat, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s 21 mem­bers had al­ready en­tered into a “noo­dle bowl” of about 150 trade agree­ments and the TTP needed to be com­pat­i­ble with those deals.

The pro­posed Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) would be the world’s largest, group­ing the US with 11 other APEC mem­ber coun­tries in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, and Canada.

“APEC... has not been in­volved for­mally in TPP but of course we’ve ob­served progress and of course we’ll all be pleased to see the text out in the pub­lic arena now so that we can judge that,” Bol­lard told a news con­fer­ence. “And I think it’s fair to say that APEC doesn’t want to see dif­fer­ent trade agree­ments go­ing off in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, wouldn’t want to see TPP as a rich econ­omy club go­ing off like that.”

The terms of the TPP, which also in­cludes Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mex­ico, New Zealand, Peru, Sin­ga­pore and Viet­nam, were re­leased ear­lier this month.

Fel­low APEC mem­bers South Korea and In­done­sia have also both sig­nalled in­ter­est in join­ing.

How­ever the deal ex­cludes APEC mem­ber and US ri­val China. Beijing is seek­ing to push its own vi­sion of an Asia-Pa­cific trade pact, and be­gan cam­paign­ing for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific (FTAAP) when it hosted the APEC sum­mit last year.

Last week Chi­nese Vice Commerce Min­is­ter Wang Shouwen said in Beijing that China would “ac­tively work for the es­tab­lish­ment of the FTAAP”. APEC ac­counts for more than half of global eco­nomic out­put and nearly half of world trade. Bol­lard said APEC was study­ing how all th­ese trade agree­ments in the re­gion im­pact on each other and how they could be in­te­grated. The study is be­ing led by the US and China. “Progress will be re­viewed by min­is­ters this af­ter­noon and tomorrow. This re­port will be fi­nalised next year,” he said.

“We see (the) study as the way where we’ll be able to judge where all those are go­ing, how they fit to­gether, could they con­flict with one an­other, and what might come to help in­te­grate all that,” he added. —AFP

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