APEC does not want to see a United States-led free-trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) become a "rich-economy club," a senior forum official said yesterday. Speaking ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Philippines' capital, Manila, Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC secretariat, said the organization's 21 members had already entered into a "noodle bowl" of about 150 trade agreements and the TTP needed to be compatible with those deals. The proposed deal would be the world's largest trade partnership, grouping the U.S. with 11 other APEC member countries including Japan, Australia and Canada.
"APEC ... has not been involved formally in TPP, but of course we've observed progress and of course we'll all be pleased to see the text out in the public arena now so that we can judge that," Bollard said during a press conference. "And I think it's fair to say that APEC doesn't want to see different trade agreements going off in different directions, [we] wouldn't want to see TPP as a rich-economy club going off like that."
The terms of the TPP, which also includes Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, were released earlier this month.
Fellow APEC members South Korea and Indonesia have also both signaled interest in joining. However the deal excludes APEC member and U.S. rival China. Beijing is seeking to push its own vision of an Asia-Pacific trade pact, and began campaigning for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) when it hosted the APEC summit last year. Last week Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said in Beijing that China would "actively work for the establishment of the FTAAP."
APEC accounts for more than half of global economic output and nearly half of world trade. Bollard said APEC was studying how all these trade agreements in the region impact each other and how they could be integrated. The study is being led by the U.S. and China. "Progress will be reviewed by ministers this afternoon and tomorrow. This report will be finalized next year," he said. "We see [the] study as the way where we'll be able to judge where all those are going, how they fit together, could they conflict with one another and what might come to help integrate all that," he added.