China presses for Pacific trade deal

China is pressing other Asia-Pacific countries for free trade agreement, after the US-led TPP deal that excludes Asian giants came into the world’s attention.

The idea of Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTAAP) was raised in 2006 by the leaders of APEC, which includes both Asian giants and the U.S.  As the U.S. is working on settling the free trade deal with 12 countries involved including Australia, Mexico, Malaysia and Japan, which all belong to APEC, China along with Indonesia feel pressed for a free trade deal that include their countries. But the US-led trade talks have become snagged on issues related to Japan’s tightly guarded auto and agricultural sectors. There had been hopes that Tokyo and Washington might break the impasse during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan last week, but they failed to clinch a deal and negotiations continue. And now China sees the great opportunity and timing.

There are concerns that FTAAP would be conflict with the existing FTAs in the area. Before the suggestion of FTAAP, there had been dozens of FTAs that benefit bilateral trades between two Asia-Pacific countries. China is firm on this issue that the new agreement will not interfere with the existing FTAs, instead it will be designed and built on them.

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As the U.S. and Japan negotiation is coming out unresolved after several months of efforts, people wonder if the larger plan for an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement will be able to come out easily. Chinese President Xi Jinping said last October at the APEC forum that China would “commit itself to building a trans-Pacific regional cooperation framework that benefits all parties.” If the agreement is a go, it will not come without conflicts or debates or disagreements, but at least there’re lessons learned from TPP and there’s a country that is willing to lead.

The working group of negotiation is yet to be decided and whether the negotiation is desired and whether it should start or not are still in question. However, the proposal “has won positive reactions from some APEC member countries.” A Chinese official said. A lot is unknown and more to be expected.


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