Amid one of the most tense APEC meetings ever held, leaders at the economic summit in Beijing have given their initial approval to a China-led free trade zone.
The initial approval is seen as a win for China, which has been pushing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, or FTAAP, as an alternative to the U.S.-led Free Trade Area – The Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Speaking Tuesday at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping called the support “historic.”
“We decided to launch the FTAAP process. It represents a historic step we’ve made toward the realization of the FTAAP and marks the official launch of the process. It represents the confidence and resolution of the APEC members to push forward regional economic integration,” said Xi.
It is unclear how APEC’s endorsement will help lead to the implementation the nascent trade initiative. The most tangible outcome appears to be the commissioning of a two-year study on how to achieve it.
U.S. officials have said that the Chinese plan does not conflict with Washington’s preferred trade zone, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which notably does not include China.
Free trade was a major focus of the APEC meeting.