BEIJING (AFP) – Leaders of more than half the world’s economy gather in Beijing next week for the annual Apec forum, with China and the US pushing rival trade agreements as a week-long series of international summits gets under way.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, hosting his biggest international gathering since assuming office nearly two years ago, welcomes representatives including US President Barack Obama, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which starts with ministerial meetings on Friday before the main summit on Monday and Tuesday, accounts for more than 50 per cent of global gross domestic product, 44 per cent of world trade and 40 per cent of the Earth’s population.
In the 25 years since it was set up it has long pushed free trade among its members – with mixed success in the face of bilateral deals, protectionist tendencies, and the vagaries of global World Trade Organisation negotiations – and three competing concepts will vie for dominance in Beijing.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), pushed by Washington and seen as part of its much-touted “pivot” to Asia after years leading wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is being discussed by 12 Apec nations including the US, Japan and Australia, but market access disagreements between Washington and Tokyo are a particular hurdle.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) champions the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would bring together Asean and six countries with which it has FTAs, including China, Japan and India.