| Hakim Hayat in Beijing, China |
HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday joined other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders for the first Retreat Session of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) 2014 at the International Convention Centre in Yanqi Lake in the suburbs of Beijing.
Speaking to mark the start of the 22nd AELM, which focused on ‘Regional Economic Integration’ and attended by heads of government of the 21 Pacific Rim member economies, President Xi Jinping, the chair of the 22nd AELM, urged the bloc to speed up the free trade talks roadmap Beijing initiated, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) – which is envisioned to spur economic growth amid slow global economic recovery.
“Currently, the global economic recovery faces many unstable and uncertain factors. 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,” Xi Jinping said, adding that the bloc should actively promote the FTAAP, setting the goal, direction and roadmap and turn the vision into reality at the soonest possible. Xi Jinping’s comments come in the middle of differences between the United States and China over what are being seen as rival trade plans over Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Some see the FTAAP as a way to distract attention from the TPP, which is being pushed by the United States and in which China is excluded from. The TPP seeks to establish a free-trade bloc encompassing about 800 million people and almost 40 per cent of the global economy.
Apec leaders during the meeting noted that significant progress had been made in the FTAAP, through the leveraging of existing agreements and establishment of roadmap and model measures, which Beijing has been pushing for this year’s summit.
In this session, Apec Economic Leaders took note of the many efforts Apec has achieved towards reaching its goals of free and open trade and investment, which is in line with Apec’s work towards the Bogor Goals.
The leaders also deliberated on the outcomes of the 9th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, Republic of Indonesia.
The first retreat session in the morning was followed with a customary Apec ‘family photo’ of all attending leaders.
Prior to a working lunch, His Majesty joined other Apec Leaders for a tree-planting ceremony in the Summer Garden to commemorate the meeting.
At the working lunch held at the Yanqi Lake Guesthouse, the leaders discussed the Apec Connectivity Blueprint 2015-2025, agreeing to meet its objective and targets by 2025.
At the meeting, China also proposed the establishment of an Apec Higher Education Research Center to promote higher education cooperation and to enhance connectivity in education among Apec economies.
Meanwhile, the United States launched the Apec Scholarship Initiative to promote the creation of privately and publicly funded Apec-branded scholarship, training and internship opportunities to benefit students and professionals – especially youth and women from developing Apec economies. The scholarships will support Apec’s target of one million intra-Apec university-level students per year by 2020.
Apec Economic Leaders also reviewed the progress of the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (2011-2015).