China, it seems, won’t be wasting any time securing its footing in trade—just weeks after the Trans-Pacific Partnership was agreed on and days after the document’s text was released, the Asian powerhouse said it’s gearing up to push its own Asia-Pacific trade pact.
At last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, leaders endorsed a plan for realizing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) deal, which would include all of APEC’s 21 member countries—all of the 12 TPP nations plus China, Russia, the Philippines, and six others.
Little has since been said about forward movement on FTAAP, but Chinese officials said talks would resume at APEC’s summit in the Philippines next week, where a report on the findings of a study on the free trade area will be presented, according to the South China Morning Post. Chinese president Xi Jingping will be in attendance at the summit.
“We need to actively work for the establishment of FTAAP,” China’s vice commerce minister Wang Shouwen told the Post, adding that it would be “a facilitator for regional integration in APEC.”
Once realized, the TPP would be the world’s largest free trade area, facilitating trade for roughly 40 percent of the global economy, but if the FTAAP came into effect, it would encompass the TPP and other regional frameworks, effectively taking the title of world’s largest free-trade area from the U.S.-led deal.
China, the world’s second largest economy has been excluded from TPP talks, a move experts have deemed deliberate to help counter China’s influence over the Pacific, though the U.S. has said it would be open to the country’s inclusion in the agreement down the road.
A study last year on the case for TPP and FTAAP convergence estimated that expanding the TPP from its current 12 to 17, adding China, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand, could increase the deal’s global benefits threefold.
But experts are of opposing views on what merging, altering or expanding the deals would mean.
An article in Bloomberg View said, “Bringing in China, the world’s biggest trading nation, would further strengthen the TPP’s promise as the template for an even wider global agreement.”
Alan Bollard, APEC’s executive director said, “FTAAP could render TPP and RCEP unnecessary in the long run, but it’s quite a long run.”
A roadmap for establishing a framework for FTAAP is expected to come out of next week’s APEC meeting, but what will happen from that point and how quickly it will happen remains in question.
Vice commerce minister Wang told the Post, “Our objective is to complete the joint strategic study next year and to present operable suggestions and recommendations to the leaders at next year’s summit.”