APEC ministers agree to push free trade area road map

By Yang Jing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-9 23:18:01

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting on Saturday reached consensus on the Beijing Road Map for APEC to advance the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) negotiation process, which was welcomed by experts and entrepreneurs.  

The ministerial meeting agreed to "launch and comprehensively and systemically push forward the FTAAP process," Gao Hucheng, China's commerce minister, said at a press conference, Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday.

He also said that the road map outlined the principles and action plan for APEC to promote FTAAP and regional integration, and will be a milestone document in the history of APEC, according to a press conference record published on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

If established, the FTAAP would cover nearly half of the world's economies, being one of the largest free trade zones in the world, according to the Xinhua report.

An annual survey conducted by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council was released on Friday during the APEC Leaders' Week in Beijing and stated "the estimated economic benefits of Asia-Pacific wide integration are large at 2.3 percent of world GDP in 2025 or $2.4 trillion."

Development of APEC economies depends on momentum in free trade to escape the middle income trap, PwC's survey of 635 executives with operations in APEC economies between June and August 2014 stated as it called for better integration and lower barriers.

"The FTAAP will help reduce trade barriers for us to export cultural products abroad," Xiao Hong, CEO of gaming company Beijing Perfect World Network Technology, told the Global Times Sunday on the sidelines of the 2014 APEC CEO Summit.

For cultural companies, non-tariff barriers such as a lack of mutual cultural understanding are also serious, Xiao said.

"China's proposals to strengthen connectivity and integration in the Asia-Pacific region will help us explore markets such as Japan and Vietnam where we currently meet obstacles," he said.

The region has made many efforts to implement bilateral or multilateral economic cooperations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Therefore, the Asia-Pacific region would be cut into pieces by these different trade partnerships and be faced with confusion, but the FTAAP can solve the problem, Zhang Yongjun, deputy director of research department at the China Center for International Economics Exchanges, told the Global Times Sunday.

Due to the FTAAP's wide coverage of the entire Asia-Pacific region, it is certain that the agreement will have the biggest positive influence on participants though obstacles will also come along, he noted.

There are many differences in terms of economy, politics as well as culture among APEC economies, which indicate that the negotiation process of the FTAAP will be very difficult and a long-term process, said Zhang.

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