APEC summit: China-backed free trade ‘roadmap’ supported by leaders

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Beijing (AFP) – An Asia-Pacific summit on Tuesday endorsed a Beijing-backed route towards a vast free trade area in the region, host Xi Jinping said, calling it a “historic” step.

At the same time the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting saw a flurry of diplomatic activity, with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin — often criticised by the West — meeting his US counterpart Barack Obama and, separately, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The Apec summit near Beijing agreed to launch a study into the FTAAP.

The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is seen by some as a rival to a US trade pact, which excludes China.

The US is currently negotiating a separate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is considered part of Washington’s “pivot” towards Asia – ensuring continued US influence in the region in response to growing Chinese power.

Mr Obama has rejected suggestions by Chinese commentators that the TPP is a way of countering Chinese influence.

In an interview with China’s Xinhua state news agency, he said the US was in no way trying to contain China.

A day earlier Xi had met Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in the first formal leaders’ meeting for nearly three years between the Asian neighbours, who have an often difficult relationship.

“Currently, the global economic recovery still faces many unstable and uncertain factors,” the Chinese leader said earlier.

“Facing the new situation, we should further promote regional economic integration and create a pattern of opening up that is conducive to long-term development.”

President Obama (left) later had talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Zong Nan Hai leaders' compound
President Obama (left) later had talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Zong Nan Hai leaders’ compound

Mr Obama and Mr Xi later began talks at a garden compound near Beijing’s Forbidden City.

“When the US and China are able to work together effectively, the whole world benefits,” Mr Obama said.

Separately, the US and China said they had made a “breakthrough” on eliminating tariffs on their technology products.

Mr Froman said the agreement in Beijing “shows how the US and China work together to both advance our bilateral economic agenda but also to support the multilateral trading system”.

On the sidelines of the summit, Australian PM Tony Abbott met Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine in July.

Australians were among the 298 people who died on Flight MH17. Western nations say it was caused by a missile fired by pro-Russian rebels. Moscow says Ukrainian government forces were responsible.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said the two leaders had agreed on the need for a genuine investigation into what happened.

Source: Yahoo News, BBC News

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