APEC leaders agree to beginnings of Asian free trade agreement


Leaders of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, concluded their meeting in Beijing on Tuesday with a declaration for a road map to build a free trade agreement in the region.

The members also endorsed a number of initiatives to boost the regional economy and fair trade. The leaders pledged to deepen cooperation, support open trade, and strengthen connectivity. CCTV’s Han Bin reported this story from Beijing.

APEC has long been an open forum but this year’s meeting was included more proposed initiatives and some breakthroughs, despite differences.

“We should build APEC into an institutional platform, by promoting integration, a policy platform based on experience sharing, and an open platform against trade protectionism, a development platform to intensify economic and technical cooperation, and a platform for boosting connectivity,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi also announced that China will donate $10 million to support APEC institutional and capacity building and practical cooperation in various fields.

The biggest achievement of the meeting was the adoption of the Beijing Road Map for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, also known as the FTAAP. The signatories committed to move forward with the process of establishing the FTAAP, however no clear timetable was announced.

“We decided to initiate the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific and approved a road map to materialize the FTAAP, marking a historical step toward building this inclusive free trade area and symbolizing the official start of the FTAAP process. It showed that APEC member economies are confident and determined to promote regional economic integration,” Xi said.

China also expressed the importance of regional connectivity across the Asia-Pacific region, including the development of the “One Belt and One Road” initiative, which includes the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” projects that would improve connectivity and economic ties between China and neighboring countries and efforts to combat corruption.

APEC leaders adopted the Beijing Anti-corruption Declaration, and set up a cooperation network for dealing with trans-border cases. The network will become China’s new weapon in fighting graft.

While the initiatives are significant, their future approval and implementation will be a test of the relationships among APEC members, and a of China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific Region.

On the eve of the summit, Beijing also announced a free-trade agreement with South Korea. Also Monday, regulators approved a plan to open Chinese stock markets wider to foreign investors by linking exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai. That followed the weekend announcement of a $40 billion Chinese-financed fund to improve trade links between Asian economies.

Earlier this year, Beijing launched a regional development bank with 20 other governments. In May, Xi called for a new Asian structure for security cooperation based on a group that includes Russia and Iran but excludes the United States.

Story compiled with information from The People’s Daily and AP.

Zhang Jianping of Institute for Int’l Economic Research discusses APEC

To understand the agreements made at the APEC meeting, CCTV America interviewed Zhang Jianping, director of the Department of International Economic Cooperation at the Institute for International Economic Research in China.

Charles Morrison of East-West Center discusses US-China relations

CCTV America also interviewed Charles Morrison, president of the East-West Center in Hawaii to discuss the current U.S.-China economic relationship.

More about U.S.-China relations from Charles Morrison.

Changes in US Congress may mean approval of Trans Pacific Partnership

U.S. President Barack Obama has been using his visit to the Asia Pacific to promote a different trade deal from China’s FTAAP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The future of that agreement is looking more promising due to domestic political changes in the United States. CCTV America’s White House Correspondent Jessica Stone reported this story.

It’s been six years since negotiations began on the Trans Pacific Partnership, and Obama and his trade team are still selling it. The agreement would tie together 12 nations bordering the Pacific Ocean in an unprecedented, high-standard, free trade zone. China is not currently a part of negotiations.

Obama administration officials insist TPP, which would benefit U.S. exporters, is not anti-China and that China is still welcome to join.

“It means more trade, more good jobs, and higher incomes for people throughout the region, including the United States,” Obama said.

But the TPP faces some opposition at home. U.S. consumer watch group Public Citizen released a statement this week, saying the agreement would “promote lower wages, higher medicine prices, and more unsafe imported food.”

The U.S. midterm elections have ushered in more a pro-free trade Congress that are much more likely to give Obama the authority to negotiate the TPP with what’s called ‘fast track authority’. This is the first free trade agreement that a U.S. President has attempted to negotiate without it.

Still, American business leaders and academics say even with fast track authority, the TPP talks face significant challenges particularly over discussions to lower Japan’s beef and automobile tariffs.

APEC leaders’ national dress reflects Chinese culture

One of the traditions of the annual APEC leaders’ meeting is the “family photo” where leaders don the national dress of the APEC host. When APEC was held in Shanghai 13 years ago, leaders wore Tang jackets, this year, Beijing presented the leaders with silk shirts that are more reflective of Chinese history. CCTV’s Liu Yang reported this story from Beijing.

Designing the photograph outfit for APEC leaders required creativity and a deep understanding of the Chinese culture.

It took a year of countless design changes following a competition and a process that determined details down to the buttons. A design team solicited 455 proposals from top designers across China and 60 were made into samples. Those samples were then whittled down to 35 for in-depth construction, before the outfits were finalized at the end of October.

The 21 APEC leaders and their spouses debuted the designs at the banquet in Beijing on Monday.

“In the design, we want to show the elements of traditional Chinese culture, the beauty of its clothing. We also want to take this opportunity to show our country’s cultural confidence, and the national self-confidence,” said one of the designers, Chu Yan.

The APEC designs combine Chinese and Wester styles, she added.

“For example, [this year’s design] highlights are the collar, placket front neckline, and raglan sleeve. Thirteen years ago, the designers used a more western-style cut. This time we’ve gone back to the traditional Chinese design, using the raglan sleeve,” Chu said.

Chinese Premier to travel to Myanmar for East Asia Summit

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is due to arrive in Myanmar Nov. 12-14 to attend a series of meetings of the East Asia Summit, or EAS, and pay an official visit to the country. Li’s visit is the first for the country by a Chinese premier since the new leadership took place, and is is considered important in promoting China-Myanmar relations. CCTV America’s Hou Na reported this story from Beijing.

“China and Myanmar are land neighbors with each other… bilateral trade between China and Myanmar are at very small and low levels, but the potential is huge,” said Gao Zhikai, a member of China-Myanmar Friendship Association.

China is Myanmar’s biggest trade partner, biggest import market, and second-largest export market. Last year, 30 percent of Myanmar’s overseas trade was with China. Trade between China and Myanmar totaled $10.15 billion in 2013. In the first nine months of 2014, bilateral trade reached $17.75 billion, an increase of 185 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

Myanmar is and important country for overseas investment by Chinese enterprises.

“Based on the high complementarities between the two countries in all the areas, China is well positioned to provide assistance and engage actively with the economic reform and construction in Myanmar,” Gao said.

During Premier Li’s visit to Myanmar, the two sides are expected to sign a number of economic and trade cooperative agreements.

Scott Bates of Center for Nat’l Policy discusses China and SE Asia

The East Asian Summit will take place after the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, currently underway in Myanmar from Nov. 10-12.

To learn more about the relationship between AESAN nations and China, CCTV America interviewed Scott Bates, president of the Center for National Policy at the Truman National Security Project, a progressive think-tank in Washington.

Follow Scott Bates on Twitter @ScottBatesCT

Philippines prepares to host APEC 2015

Next year the Philippines will host the 2015 APEC forum. The country has been outperforming its neighbors in recent years, and the benefits its economic growth are being felt in the capital Manila and beyond. CCTV America’s Barnaby Lo reports from Iloilo City.

Jennifer Palmares-Fong, 32, spent 15 years away from Iloilo City studying and working. Today, she’s back home and she’s helping pave the way for her city’s development.

One of the country’s top developers, Megaworld, saw the potential in the city and is currently transforming a 72-hectare, or .3 square-mile plot of land into a mixed residential-commercial complex.

When completed, there will be a shopping mall, hotels, business and residential towers, and a convention center that will be one of the venues for next year’s APEC member meetings.

“From a real estate perspective, it’s cheaper. From a labor perspective, it’s cheaper, so there’s probably more supply. By doing that, also, we’re essentially telling people to stay where they are. We will bring business to them,” said Jericho Go, senior vice president of Megaworld Corp.

With business comes job creation. Fong, who had previously worked at the Manila offices of Megaworld, now heads the sales and marketing group in Iloilo City.

“One of our drivers’ daughter here in Megaworld gets to work at McDonald’s, and then his son gets to work in the construction of our township also. So this in a way also gives opportunities to Ilonggos,” she said.

Several other investors have also placed their bets on Iloilo, and other key regional cities.

“It’s a push factor out of metro Manila and a pull factor for provinces where wages are more reasonable and where infrastructure is still in excess compared to the requirements,” said Filipino economist Emilio Neri Jr.

Despite the boom, economists warn that the country’s infrastructure must catch up with private investment or the vast majority of Filipinos in the countryside could be left behind.