China eyes progress at APEC for China-backed free trade area
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Maersk's Triple-E giant container ship Majestic Maersk, one of the world's largest container ships is seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes to see progress at next month's summit in Peru of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc in pushing ahead with a Chinese-backed trade liberalization framework, China's foreign minister said while on a trip to Lima.
At an APEC summit in Beijing two years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged members to speed up talks on the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) being pushed by Beijing.
APEC approved work towards the establishment of FTAAP, which Xi said then was a "historic step".
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a feasibility study on FTAAP had been basically completed and China hoped to present it at this APEC summit, his ministry said in a statement.
China "hopes it's approved by the meeting and that the next steps can be jointly agreed on upon this basis", the ministry cited Wang as saying.
"China hopes that the negotiations process for FTAAP can start in due course."
APEC needs to send a positive signal against a tide of rising protectionism and anti-globalization and so China would like APEC to reach consensus on FTAAP, Wang said.
Some see FTAAP as a way to divert attention from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement backed by the United States.
China is not part of the TPP and has not been enthusiastic about it.
China fears the TPP is being used by the United States to either force it to open markets by signing up or else isolate it from other regional economies as trade is diverted to TPP signatories.
The TPP is seen as the economic backbone of U.S. President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, which some experts view as an attempt to balance China's rise by establishing a larger U.S. presence in the region.
Wang said the various trade proposals on the table should be "open, not closed, and inclusive, not exclusionary".
China is also keen on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which groups the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
"No matter whether it's TPP or RCEP, they all lead to the path of FTAAP," Wang said. "The rules of international trade should be decided via equal consultations of all parties, not just one or two parties having the final say."
Trade rules should not be politicized or have some political aim, he added.
"This neither helps the normal development of international trade nor accords with the joint interests of the various economies."
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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