TPP, other trade deals to support Asia-Pacific economic integration

By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA, Nov. 17 (PNA) — Ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific economies are expecting that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements to further support regional economic integration, as they aim to complete a study on the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) by end of 2016.

Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said the TPP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and other bilateral and regional trade agreements are “all building blocks” for the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region.

Domingo said such trade agreements also provide benefits to multilateral trading system, which is the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Because by having more of this regional or bilateral, plurilateral type of agreements, we actually advance the position of the free trade regimes which makes it easier to conclude at a bigger group such as the FTAAP and eventually the WTO. So these are all building blocks, that’s how it is deemed,” he said in a press conference Tuesday after the conclusion of the APEC Ministerial Meeting (AMM).

The US-led TPP, the ASEAN-based RCEP process and the Pacific Alliance are the three proposed pathways to the FTAAP.

The trade official said the initial version of the strategic study on issues related to realization of the FTAAP is expected to be completed by January next year.

“Basically, they’d like to see the work continue on the study for FTAAP and there is a target that the submission of a comprehensive study and accompanying recommendations by the end of 2016,” Domingo said.

The study would be reported to the APEC Leaders when they meet in Peru by end of 2016.

Peru is next year’s APEC host economy.

APEC economies expect the FTAAP can boost economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Once in place, it could dwarf all other economic arrangements made given its size and scope.

APEC’s 21 member economies control half of the world trade and account for 60 percent of the global economy. They are home to nearly three billion consumers in some of the world’s most vibrant economies.

APEC’s member economies are the United States; Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Republic of Korea; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Viet Nam. (PNA)