Leaders of economies attending the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and their spouses pose for a group photo ahead of a welcome banquet in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Chinanews.com
President Xi Jinping said the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific will consolidate regional economic integration and is compatible with existing regional free trade arrangements.
The launch of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific process, which points out the direction for Asia-Pacific cooperation, is one of the expected achievements Xi outlined for the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.
The Free Trade Area does not go against existing free trade arrangements, which are the potential pathways to realize the FTAAP goals, Xi said when speaking at the dialogue between APEC leaders and representatives of the APEC Business Advisory Council on Monday.
The FTAAP can be the "aggregation" of existing free trade arrangements, and the aim of pushing forward the FTAAP process is to consolidate the regional integration and define long-term goals, the president noted.
While there is competition between the US and China over trade rules in the Asia-Pacific, the FTAAP does not conflict with the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, He Weiwen, an executive council member of the China Society for WTO Studies, told the Global Times.
The expert added the China-initiated trade arrangement aims to seek the "greatest common denominator" among more than 50 bilateral or multilateral FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The moves reflect Beijing's insistence on a bigger role in what it sees as U.S.-dominated economic and security structures to reflect China's status as the world's second-biggest economy
Laying a solid foundation for regional Asia-Pacific connectivity was also high on the APEC agenda.
China's proposal to strengthen connectivity is tied to its periphery diplomacy. The country can provide the world with public goods such as the Silk Road Fund or the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, Chen Fengying, a research fellow with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.
President Xi also said that issuing a statement to mark the 25th anniversary of APEC as well as promoting innovation, reforms and growth to seek new momentum for long-term development in the Asia-Pacific region would be important outcomes for the meetings.
As host, China is promoting the adoption of more than 50 proposals which will benefit long-term regional development, Zhang Lijun, chairman of the China APEC Development Council, told the Global Times.
On the eve of the gathering, Beijing announced a free-trade agreement Monday with South Korea. Also Monday, regulators approved a plan to open Chinese stock markets wider to foreign investors by linking exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai. That followed the weekend announcement of a $40 billion Chinese-financed fund to improve trade links between Asian economies.
On Monday night, President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, both dressed in traditional Chinese garb, hosted a welcome banquet at the National Swimming Center in northern Beijing, known colloquially as the Water Cube, for leaders and their spouses from the 21-member APEC.