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Globalization, free trade dominate 2016 APEC leaders' meeting

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-19 15:26

LIMA -- Leaders from the 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will meet over the weekend in Lima, with the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) high on the agenda.

Advances toward the FTAAP have been made since the 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing when a roadmap was created for what would be an ambitious free-trade area which has around 2.8 billion people and accounts for nearly 49 percent of global trade and 57 percent of global GDP.

Prior to the leaders' meeting over the weekend, representatives to APEC have been busy laying out their agenda, especially on the FTAAP.

On Wednesday, Luis Quesada, this year's chair of APEC Senior Officials, told a press conference that "the most important part of this meeting has been the study of a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region."

The discussions are expected to help APEC members revise their commercial policies and overcome obstacles to opening-up in a world that is increasingly divided due to unbalanced benefits from free trade.

Despite scepticism about a full commercial opening-up, Quesada remained optimistic that the opening-up process would continue to move forward.

He also commended the creation of a roadmap to increase competitiveness in the service sector, among others.

He said the service sector is an important focus of this year's APEC meetings as services such as e-commerce are becoming ever greater drivers of job growth and economic development.

Another topic for APEC leaders at the meeting is the need to increase connectivity between APEC member economies.

Quesada said the APEC schedule for achieving commercial opening-up goals is expected to be revised for members. The original APEC plan requires developing economies to meet the goals by 2020 and developed economies by 2010.

Facing a rise of protectionism, "the region's soft approach to globalization and trade could be the best way forward. It offers incremental, yet significant change that is not just tolerated but actually welcomed by all peoples of society," said Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat.

APEC, which does not work as a legally binding institution, has developed a lot of new ideas since its creation in 1989, with many of them adopted by its members, said Bollard.

"We don't want one size to fit all, we want interconnectivity," he added.

The benefits and costs of globalization are another issue to be discussed at the APEC meeting, according to him.

"We have to take the anti-globalization sentiment quite seriously. It has happened in a number of regions and we have to assess what is driving that," said Bollard.

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