China has shown strong leadership on a whole range of plans, experts say
Leaders of 21 Pacific rim economies are set to renew their endeavors to advance regional integration and forge stronger partnership at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Chinese initiatives that emphasize the concepts of openness, cooperation and sharing in global economic governance are believed to steer APEC members toward achieving their development goals and expanding mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, a manifestation of China's steadfast pursuit for globalization, has been envisioned as a major instrument for ensuring an open economy in the Asia-Pacific amid worries over trade protectionism and lack of growth momentum.
Hailed as "a strategic initiative critical for the long-term prosperity of the Asia-Pacific" by President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech at an APEC meeting in Lima, Peru, last year, the FTAAP has been gaining steam especially after a collective study on the trade bloc was approved at the Lima meeting, the first substantial step toward its eventual realization.
"We need to stick to our agenda and take more effective actions to realize the FTAAP at an early date, thus bringing about an Asia-Pacific economy with greater openness," Xi said.
By encompassing all 21 APEC economies through trade liberalization, the FTAAP, once established, will become the world's largest free trade zone, covering 57 percent of the global economy and nearly half of world trade.
Initiatives steer APEC toward cooperation
"The FTAAP, being highly inclusive, can embrace economies at different levels of development and fully accommodate their development needs and comfortability, and once established, will deliver economic gains dwarfing any
We need to stick to our agenda ... to realize the FTAAP at an early date, thus bringing about an Asia-Pacific economy with greater openness."
Xi Jinping, Chinese president existing regional FTAs," Zhang Jun, director-general of the department of international economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry, has said.
Promoting the FTAAP on the basis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a very ideal plan as the TPP is in an impasse and the RCEP also faces big challenges due to different levels of development in its member economies, said Wang Jiangyu, associate professor at Faculty of Law of National University of Singapore.
The RCEP is a free trade pact involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six other countries - China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
China can carry out bilateral free trade negotiations with countries willing to open their markets within the RCEP framework and upgrade existing bilateral free trade deals to promote the formation of the RCEP, he said.
While all 21 members have demonstrated leadership in one way or another, China has shown strong leadership in APEC on a whole range of initiatives, said Alan Bollard, executive director of the Singapore-based APEC Secretariat.
The APEC Connectivity Blueprint 2015-2025, which promises tangible action on physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity, was adopted at the 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing to bring the APEC region closer.
As a significant action plan for the Asia-Pacific's long-term development, the blueprint also reflects the common aspiration of APEC economies for improved connectivity.
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has also contributed in this regard, said Wu Hongying, director of the Latin America office of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
With a focus on connectivity, the Belt and Road Initiative has been aligned with many regional and national development strategies and produced tangible results after being launched in 2013.
By May this year, China's overall investment in countries that support the initiative had surpassed $50 billion. Chinese companies had set up 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating about $1.1 billion in tax revenue and 180,000 jobs.
Between 2014 and 2016, total trade volume between China and other countries involved in the plan exceeded $3 trillion.
"It is a very big project, which is different from a trade agreement so we see it as a whole series of infrastructure projects and economic connectivity. The economic connectivity part is much in line with the APEC's connectivity blueprint. It's interesting to see what it can produce," Bollard said.
Besides, China has played a positive role in creating shared interests for regional economies along with its own development through such proposals as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund.
The AIIB had provided $1.7 billion in loans to nine projects carried out in countries that support the initiative by May this year while the investment from the Silk Road Fund had amounted to $4 billion.