Beijing's successful agenda-setting

By Zhu Feng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, November 14, 2014
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The 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Week in Beijing came toward an end with the completion of the two-day Economic Leaders' Meeting on Tuesday evening. Not since the first APEC leaders' meeting in Seattle 21 years ago, has such an APEC conference been as fruitful.

That is not an exaggeration. Apart from the traditional business forums, ministerial meetings and cultural performances, the online buzzword "APEC blue", a sarcastic comment on Beijing's uncommonly blue sky over the past week, was even cited by President Xi Jinping in his speech at a welcome dinner for the APEC leaders on Monday. Xi's pledge to make APEC blue days common shows China's resolve to balance its economic development with environmental protection.

Of course, the biggest achievement of all, given the enlarging fissures in the regional economic integration that members have pursued in recent years, was that all APEC members agreed to work on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. Prior to this agreement, the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving Japan and Australia, was at odds with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, supported by China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

According to a statement released after the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, member economies will now begin studying issues such as the free trade of investments, commodities, and services. This is a rarely seen consensus between all APEC economies since the White House launched the TPP negotiations in 2010.

Second, aside from economic integration and free trade, this year's APEC meeting also resulted in an agreement to strengthen political and security-related cooperation within the Asia-Pacific. The APEC leaders have jointly pledged to work together to tackle pressing issues such as terrorism and corruption. This has already produced a number of pragmatic moves, such as the setting up of a cross-border regional anti-corruption network.

Albeit the APEC meetings still prioritized regional economic development, they did open windows of opportunity for face-to-face meetings between leaders, which offered new momentum to some otherwise frozen issues. It is a pity that a meeting between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin did not work out given the serious confrontation that has erupted between Washington and Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis. However, that should not overshadow the other important meetings that did take place.

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