President Xi Jinping (fifth from left in front row) joins the other participants in the 24th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Lima, Peru, for a group photo on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]
Xi says FTAAP will promote economy of Asia-Pacific region to a new level
Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies ended their annual meeting with a joint pledge to resist protectionism amid signs of increased free-trade skepticism.
The meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization, which accounts for 57 percent of the world economy, led to a joint statement on Sunday that asked to work toward adoption of the broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, a 21-economy pact that is favored by China.
"We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism," the leaders of the APEC economies said in the joint statement.
US president-elect Donald Trump, who will take office in January, has vowed not to honor the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, a trade deal pursued by President Barack Obama. Trump has called the agreement a "disaster" for jobs.
China is not part of the TPP and has been pushing an alternative vision of free trade in Asia under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The idea of creating the broader FTAAP was launched at the Beijing APEC Summit in 2014.
President Xi Jinping, while addressing the meeting, called for the early establishment of the FTAAP, saying the free trade area would promote the economy of the Asia-Pacific region to a new level.
"We need to make it clear to the world with action that the commitment of the Asia-Pacific to economic globalization is unchanged and its confidence undiminished," he added.
Tan Jian, a senior member of China's delegation at the leaders meeting, said that more countries, including Peru and Chile, are seeking to join the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade group, and current members want to reach a deal as soon as possible to counter rising protectionism.
Canada, a member of the TPP but not the RCEP, is keeping its options open on future trade deals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Australia said it was pursuing various opportunities, including the RCEP.
"As I've indicated previously, Australia doesn't have all its eggs in one basket," Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told reporters.
Liu Chenyang, director of the APEC Study Center at Nankai University in Tianjin, said: "The TPP will lead to vicious competition. Once the FTAAP becomes reality, it will help address problems arising from a mass of intertwined free trade agreements and push forward the integration of a regional economy."
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
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