APEC ministers to welcome TPP, other free trade frameworks

By Sayo Sasaki

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, (PNA/Kyodo) — Ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gathered Friday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali where they are expected to adopt a statement welcoming the progress of multiple regional free trade negotiations at the end of the two-day session.

During the meeting, the ministers from the Pacific Rim economies are expected to dwell on the ongoing 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership and 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade negotiations as a process to create a free trade zone covering the greater Asia-Pacific region.

They will also work to restore trust in multilateralism and resist protectionist pressure as they talk over issues including the stalemate of trade talks under the World Trade Organization and a one-year extension to 2016 of the “standstill” commitment not to create new barriers to trade in goods and services.

The APEC summit on Monday and Tuesday will not be attended by U.S. President Barack Obama as he canceled his visit to Indonesia due to a partial government shutdown. But the impact on the summit itself is likely to be small as most of the discussions are effectively done at the ministerial meeting.

During the first day of the ministerial meeting, the topics of discussions were set to cover infrastructure building, in which Japan seeks to call for safe and resilient roads and ports, as well as sustainable growth through the promotion of investment into environmental fields to prevent global warming.

Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida were among the APEC meetings’ participants.

Senior officials held meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for the ministerial meeting to be followed by an annual APEC summit.

The series of meetings are held at a time when the TPP negotiations have reached an advanced stage after 19 rounds of talks and the members are working to conclude a deal by the end of the year.

The TPP countries are holding meetings on the margins of APEC and are expected to issue a statement at the end of the TPP summit on Tuesday to reaffirm their commitment to meeting the target and creating one of the world’s largest free trade areas.

Moves to complete regional and bilateral free trade negotiations have been growing, partly as the Doha Round, named after the capital of Qatar where WTO member countries agreed in 2001 to launch new trade negotiations, has been stalled since 2006, mainly due to divisions among major trading nations.

APEC consists of Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, the United States and seven ASEAN members — Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Its members account for roughly half of the world’s economic output.