With the world and the Asia-Pacific region undergoing profound changes, China has called for joint efforts to build an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future featuring openness, inclusiveness, innovation-driven growth, greater connectivity, and mutually beneficial cooperation.
China highly values the role of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and will continue to support the development of the organization, President Xi Jinping said on Friday when addressing the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing via video link.
Established in 1989, APEC has become an important platform to facilitate economic cooperation among 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, the region is currently facing challenges such as backlashes against economic globalization, rising unilateralism, and protectionism, as well as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the first time in decades, the Asia-Pacific as a whole registered negative economic growth,” Xi said. “Protecting people’s health and reviving the economy are two formidable tasks we have to take on.”
The Chinese president outlined a four-point proposal for the future of Asia-Pacific cooperation.
“First, we need to stay open and inclusive,” Xi said. “It is important that the Asia-Pacific should remain the bellwether in safeguarding peace and stability, upholding multilateralism, and fostering an open world economy.”
He called for further efforts to promote regional economic integration for the early realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
The FTAAP proposal was initiated in 2004 and written into the declaration of the APEC meeting in 2006. During the 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing, the initiative made a breakthrough, with APEC members unanimously adopting the FTAAP Beijing Roadmap to achieve the goal.
The recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement was viewed as a significant step toward the establishment of the FTAAP.
The pact was signed on Sunday among its 15 participating countries, including the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
“China welcomes the signing of the RCEP and will favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP),” Xi said.
Effective since December 30, 2018, the CPTPP is a trade pact among 11 countries, including Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Chile, and Mexico, whose aggregate gross domestic product accounts for 13 percent of the world economy.
Efforts should be made to “promote free and open trade and investment, and make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all,” he said.
“Second, we need to pursue innovation-driven growth,” Xi said, calling for improving the digital infrastructure and bridging the digital divide in the region.
Asia-Pacific economies should “foster an open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory environment for businesses,” he stressed.
Digital technologies should play a bigger role in facilitating experience sharing on epidemic control, boosting economic recovery, and eradicating poverty in the region, he suggested.
The emphasis on innovation is in line with China’s own priorities on development. The country vows to uphold the central role of innovation in its modernization drive and take self-reliance in science and technology as a strategic underpinning for national development, according to a newly unveiled blueprint for its development in the next 15 years.
“Third, we need to enhance connectivity,” Xi added, calling connectivity a “vital basis of regional economic integration.”
He pledged active efforts to set up “green lanes” with other parties to help make customs clearance more efficient during the pandemic and stabilize industrial and supply chains in the region and beyond.
The Chinese president also expressed the hope to work with other parties to build a high-quality Belt and Road.
Not a ‘zero-sum political game’
“Fourth, we need to promote mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said, stressing that economies in the region are highly complementary to each other.
“Our economic cooperation has never been a zero-sum political game in which one’s loss is another’s gain,” he said. “Rather, our cooperation has provided us with a development platform to ensure what we each do can be mutually reinforcing and beneficial to all.”
Xi called for advancing research of the development of COVID-19 vaccines and make them a global public good affordable in developing countries.
At the virtual meeting hosted by Malaysia, APEC launched a Post-2020 vision – the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which is the bloc’s new long-term blueprint for future cooperation. It laid out three economic drivers: “trade and investment,” “innovation and digitalization,” and “strong, balanced, secure, sustainable and inclusive growth.”
The 2020 Kuala Lumpur Declaration was also issued at the meeting, calling for solidarity to defeat the pandemic and revive the economy across the region.