World / Asia-Pacific

APEC ministers' agreements include completed road map for free trade

By Li Jiabao in Qingdao (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-19 00:38

Asia-Pacific region trade ministers made "a series of important agreements" at their two-day meeting, including finalizing a road map for the creation of a free trade area, senior officials said on Sunday.

"We recognize the importance of demonstrating the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's leadership and commitment to regional economic integration, and developing a pragmatic guide to advance work toward a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) in a step-by-step approach," said the Qingdao Statement, released at the conclusion of the meeting.

"We agree on the development of the road map for APEC's contribution to the realization of an FTAAP. We instruct officials to finalize the road map in 2014."

As China is APEC host this year, the ministers' meeting was held on Saturday and Sunday in Qingdao, Shandong province. The meeting was a precursor to the economic leaders' meeting in November in Beijing.

In addition to the Qingdao Statement, ministers from the 21 economies also adopted a stand-alone statement: Continuing Support for the Multilateral Trading System.

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said at the closing ceremony of the meeting that ministers reiterated continuing support for the multilateral trading system.

They also agreed to make concrete moves to advance regional economic integration and the FTAAP, including a new Committee on Trade and Investment Friends of the Chair Group, an APEC information-sharing mechanism on regional trade agreements and free trade agreements.

The ministers also made progress in formulating an APEC Blueprint on Connectivity, and continue work on advancing APEC cooperation in physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity.

Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, told China Daily that the meeting was notable as it included detailed proposals. "This year's meeting was more active than past ones. I am satisfied with the outcomes," he said.

"The road map is significant and a big progress as it translates the FTAAP from a vision into actual moves this year. One more highlight is the connectivity blueprint — getting the region together on infrastructure, on different regular trade arrangements."

Yao Weiqun, associate president of the Shanghai WTO Affairs Consultation Center, said that the two-day meeting laid out "a good foundation for the APEC development in the next decade".

"What's left is action," Yao said.

A.V. Ulyukayev, Russian minister of economic development, said that the biggest achievement of the meeting is the decision by all the member economies to support a liberal attitude on foreign trade as opposed to protectionism, and to start the FTAAP feasibility study as soon as possible.

Xie Chuanjiao contributed to this story.

"I also expressed an expectation for joint efforts on advancing the Asia-Pacific free trade area, the regional comprehensive economic partnership and also the early harvest of the expansion of the information technology agreement. I also hope China can provide a favorable environment for Japanese enterprises."

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