Obama, Xi split on free trade initiatives at APEC

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2015 04:02 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2015 05:24 PM

MANILA - The world’s two biggest economies pushed for their respective free trade initiatives as Pacific Rim leaders began their meeting Wednesday in Manila.

Topping the agenda is the overarching aim of establishing free trade and investment among members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

But how they’ll get there exactly depends largely on the Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) initiative, which China, the second biggest economy, is pushing.

US President Barack Obama, also in the country for the APEC meeting, was confident of the success of his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) amid reservations from lawmakers back home.

“There has not a trade deal that has been done in modern American politics that is not occasionally challenging but we get it done,” he told reporters, “and I’m confident we are going to be able to get it done, so I just want to stick my two cents on that one.”

Speaking before top businessmen, Chinese President Xi Jinping cited “worries about the potential of fragmentation” given “various new regional free trade arrangements.”

“We, therefore, need to accelerate the realisation of FTAAP and take regional economic integration forward,” he said in a speech.

“We need to encourage equal-footing participation and extensive consultation and make free trade arrangements open and inclusive to the extent possible with the view of enhancing economic openness in our region and upholding the multilateral trading regime.”

APEC trade and finance ministers on Tuesday “reaffirmed” their support behind the FTAAP.

In a joint statement, they said it “should be pursued as a comprehensive free trade agreement by developing and building on ongoing regional undertakings.”

China also agreed to shell out US$3 million in the next five years to help fund the FTAAP initiative.