Leaders and ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will discuss this week steps toward setting up a vast free trade area, as Doha talks to reach a deal to open up global commerce struggle.
APEC consists of 21 economies accounting for more than half of world economic output and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) would, if realised, be the world’s largest.
But frictions over currencies and geopolitical rivalries complicate the task of economic integration in a group that include poor countries such as Papua New Guinea, fast growing emerging markets such as Indonesia and Mexico, and the three biggest economies, the United States, China and Japan.
Here’s a sampling of trade deals in the region:
Seven of the 10-member Association of South East Asian nations are also members of APEC—Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The non-APEC members are Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
The ASEAN grouping, which includes 590 million people, already has free trade deals with China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia and New Zealand.
Washington has free trade pacts with six countries in the APEC region, including Canada and Mexico as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The others are with Australia, Singapore, Peru and Chile.
It signed a free trade agreement with South Korea in 2007 but the deal has languished in the face of opposition in the U.S. Congress. Negotiators are putting “maximum effort” toward resolving objections to the agreement before President Barack Obama arrives in Seoul on Nov. 10.
Obama’s administration sees the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a key element of its plan to double U.S. exports over the next five years. Eight Asia-Pacific nations launched formal negotiatIons on the plan this year.
Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are the other members of the TPP, and the United States has said it planned to begin talks with Malaysia as a part of the broad initiative.
China, edging past Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy, has free trade pacts with ASEAN, Chile, Hong Kong, Macao, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru and Singapore.
It has concluded deals with Costa Rica and Taiwan, and is negotiating with Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iceland, Norway and the Southern African Customs Union.
China has been studying the possibility of a pact with South Korea, India and Switzerland. Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul are also jointly studying a trilateral pact.
Japan already has free trade pacts with ASEAN, Brunei, Chile, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand and Vietnam. It has been negotiating with Australia and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Talks with South Korea had been suspended for six years but trade ministers of the two countries recently agreed to prepare for resumption of talks.
Japan said in November that it would start talking with other countries about the proposed TPP trade pact, but stopped short of pledging to formally join negotiations, reflecting its worries over fallout for farmers. It is also studying a possible pact with Mongolia.
Seoul has free trade deals with ASEAN, Chile, Singapore and Peru as well as trying to concluding the deal with the United States. It is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand, and studying pacts with other countries, including China and Russia.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore have each stitched together a string of trade pacts in the region and are actively negotiating more.
The European Union has also been focusing on bilateral deals with countries in Asia. Besides having signed a pact with South Korea, the bloc is currently in talks with India, Singapore and Malaysia, and less formal discussions with Vietnam and Thailand. (Reuters)