News / Asia

APEC Targets Pacific Wide Free Trade Zone in Upcoming US Summit

APEC Targets Pacific Wide Free Trade Zone in Upcoming US Summit
APEC Targets Pacific Wide Free Trade Zone in Upcoming US Summit

Multimedia

Trade ministers with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meet this week in the western U.S. state of Montana. The meeting is one of a series leading up to an APEC summit in Hawaii in November.

In Hong Kong and other Asian mega cities business is the life blood that drives the daily hustle and bustle in one of the most successful capitalist markets in the world.  

It is a dynamism that relies heavily on exports.

Businessman Sunny Chai heads a manufacturing alliance in Hong Kong. He says removing barriers to trade must be among APEC's top priorities. "For member companies within the alliance, particularly those people who are selling raw materials or additives to materials for manufacturers within China, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia, I believe those kinds of manufacturers and companies will greatly benefit," he said.

APEC by the Numbers

  • 21 member economies
  • 40 percent of world population
  • 55 percent of global gross domestic product
  • 43 percent of world trade

With a market of more than two and a half billion consumers, APEC's 21 member countries account for about 55 percent of the world's GDP (gross domestic product) and 43 percent of global trade.  

Economist Fred Bergsten says APEC's rise reflects the growing importance of the region. "Things have changed a lot, particularly the relative importance of China and the other Asian members of APEC.  But it's interesting APEC has in fact renewed the goals that were initially created back in the 1993-1994 start up of the APEC summits.  At that time the leaders agreed to create free trade and investment in the region by 2010 to 2020," he said.

Despite some progress in reducing tariffs, the goal of an Asia-Pacific wide free trade zone remains largely unfulfilled.

Bergsten says the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposed by the U.S. would level the playing field and create new opportunities on both sides of the Pacific. "The ASEAN countries [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] already have FTAs [free trade agreements] with each of the big northeast Asian countries: China, Korea,Japan. There are other intra-Asian agreements and all of those inherently discriminate against U.S. trade, thus U.S. business and particularly U.S. workers," he said.

Those hurdles include preferential treatment among some trading partners and uneven economic growth among member countries. Another is the currency dispute between the United States and China.

Despite Beijing's promise to make its currency more flexible, the yuan, or renmimbi, has gained only five percent since June.

The U.S. insists China's undervalued currency gives its exports an unfair advantage.

But Sunny Chai says Asian manufacturers are wary of the currency debate because any sudden moves could affect their bottom line. "So when the [China's] currency goes up, the entire direct cost goes up so this is not a good thing for the manufacturers," he said.

Despite ongoing differences, Bergsten says there is room for agreement.

At the trade ministers meeting in Montana beginning Thursday, discussions will range from export regulations to the development of incentives to promote trade in green technologies.

But Bergsten says broader initiatives are likely to take place later this year. "I think President Obama has a huge opportunity to assert leadership in the region, try to move APEC toward the goal of free trade in the region and I think there's a good chance there will be important progress toward that to report at the summit in Hawaii in November," he said.

APEC represents a significant forum for American companies wishing to expand. Together the APEC countries purchase 58 percent of all U.S. exports. Trade officials say continued growth in the region is crucial to the administration's plan to double U.S. exports and create two million jobs.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid