BEIJING (AP) – China plans to use a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders to promote a regional trade initiative at a time when progress on a rival US-led trade deal has stalled, injecting a note of rivalry into an annual summit that aims for consensus.
The two-day meeting of 21 countries including the United States, Japan and South Korea is the first major international gathering in China since President Xi Jinping came to power. Starting Monday, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting gives China, the world’s second-largest economy, a platform to assert itself as a regional leader.
The proposal promoted by China, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, is part of an agenda that also includes talks on cooperation in environmental protection, energy efficiency and urbanisation.
“We will reach important consensus” on the launch of the free trade process, said Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a news conference ahead of the gathering.
China’s campaign for the initiative comes as Beijing tries to claim a bigger role in US-dominated global trade, security and financial structures.
Last month, China and 20 other Asian nations launched a bank to pay for roads and other infrastructure, despite US objections it is an unneeded rival to the World Bank. Beijing is providing most of the $50 billion in startup capital.
In May, Xi called for the creation of a new Asian structure for security cooperation based on a 24-nation group that excludes the United States.
Beijing worries Washington is pursuing a “strategy of containment” against China and sees a China-led trade pact as a way to gain influence, said Chen Bo, a trade specialist at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.