Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US and South Korean counterparts Barack Obama and Park Geun-hye arrived in Manila on Tuesday for the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) summit to be held during November 18 and 19.
Xi is expected to stress on his commitment to Asia-Pacific allies, even as Beijing tries to counter US efforts to strengthen strategic ties with the region with a much-hyped Asia Pivot.
Most heads of the 21 APEC members, except for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, have promised to attend the summit, despite the latest terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday, which claimed 129 lives and more than 350 people injured.
During the meeting, Xi will expound China’s policy on cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and the implementation of the consensus reached at last year’s APEC meeting in Beijing.
The Chinese president is also expected to introduce the progress made in implementing the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
At the APEC Summit that follows the G20, leaders will also take stock of the mammoth China-backed Asia Pacific FTA negotiations launched during last year’s summit in Beijing.
The Beijing-backed roadmap for this ambitious FTA would be studied over the next year.
The FTA, if implemented, will add an estimated $2.4 trillion to the global economy, says a survey by Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC).
The survey also said the US-led TPP trade pact, when completed, will add about $223 billion and the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) about $644 billion.
“Although APEC is not a platform for trade negotiation, it clearly has an increasingly important role to play in facilitating the preparatory work and efforts towards materializing an FTAAP,” said Don Campbell, co-chair of PECC.
Beijing is trying to counter US’ progress in forming the Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China by this alternate mega Free Trade Agreement in the Asia Pacific.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will also support China’s push for a roadmap on the Asia Pacific FTA.
“Obviously, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is just another U.S. attempt to build an architecture of regional economic cooperation that the USA would benefit from. At the same time, I believe that the absence of two major regional players such as Russia and China in its composition will not promote the establishment of effective trade and economic cooperation,” Putin said last year.
“The multilateral system of economic relations in the APR can only be strong if the interests of all states of the region are taken into account. This approach is reflected in the draft of the Beijing road map for the establishment of an Asia-Pacific free trade area. The draft is to be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of APEC leaders,” he added.
A Wall Street Journal report earlier last year said the US was trying to block China’s efforts at introducing the Asia Pacific FTA negotiations.
Beijing is claiming that this mega Asia Pacific FTA, proposed as early as 2006, is “not in conflict” with the TPP or the RCEP as both are “possible routes to it” and will aim to lower trade barriers across the region.
The China-led RCEP is a 16-nation trade bloc which includes the ASEAN plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
China and India are not included in the US-led TPP trade pact.
The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) has become a new objective for APEC regional integration, said Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, adding that China is willing to work together with relevant parties to complete a collective strategic study of the FTAAP by the end of 2016.
The Asia-Pacific countries accounts for 40 per cent of world population, 48 per cent of world trade and 57 per cent of global output.
President Xi’s presence at the APEC summit shows China’s support to the host country and that China attaches great importance to APEC process, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi a week ago during a working visit to the Philippines.
In wake of the Paris attack, the Philippine government has beefed up the already tightened security control, with about 20,000 policemen being mobilized to ensure safety of all the visiting dignitaries and delegates.