Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

China pledges further opening as leaders scramble for free trade

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Cecilia Poole | 21 November, 2016, 03:37

President Barack Obama on Saturday emphasized opportunities to create jobs as he met with leaders of countries that joined the U.S.to negotiate a sweeping Pacific trade deal that is now in jeopardy.

Canada's trade minister said the government's position on the deal hasn't changed: the decision on whether to ratify the 12-nation, Pacific Rim pact rests with the Canadian people.

Obama's speech to about 1,000 young people, his last address to a public audience overseas, came as uncertainty about Trump's promised protectionist economic policies emerged as the dominant topic at the summit with leaders from all 21 APEC countries in attendance. Without U.S. approval the agreement as now negotiated can not be implemented.

Trump, during campaigning for the United States presidential election, had spoken against the TPP and other free trade pacts, saying they kill U.S. jobs. He said he would scrap the TPP and threatened to impose tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.

Following a meeting with Obama, Xi said Beijing's relationship with Washington was at a "hinge moment" and called for a smooth transition.

Obama said he expected a "candid conversation on areas where we continue to differ, including the creation of a more level playing field for our businesses to compete, innovation policies, excess capacity and human rights".

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make USA manufacturing non-competitive", Trump wrote in a tweet in 2012.

Asia-Pacific countries should "advance economic integration and build open economies", Xi said.

China, which is not part of TPP, has been pushing its own proposal for a Pacific regional trade agreement, including all 21 APEC countries. "Sealing off and excluding others is not the correct choice".

A proposed deal between the European Union and the USA is now unlikely to be signed after Trump's win, while a trade accord between the EU and Canada took seven years to complete and was almost torpedoed by resistance from a tiny Belgian region.

The Obama administration has warned that the RCEP would not include strong protections for workers, the environment or intellectual property.

"That's the kind of attitude that we want to try to promote in. the years going forward, and my hope is that that policy will continue". The White House says President Barack Obama joins other leaders in Europe and those gathering for an Asia economic summit in Peru over the weekend in demanding a halt to bombings.

The leaders had confirmed the economic and strategic importance of the agreement, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami told reporters after the meeting. Speaking at the summit, Key said the 11 remaining partners could propose some cosmetic changes to TPP to convince Trump to see the deal as worthwhile to his country, or renegotiate it all - something Key wanted to avoid.

But those who may lose the most are consumers, who have benefited from ever cheaper goods in recent years as free trade flourished. But "the more access we can get to more markets for our exports, the better".

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said there may yet be a path for the deal, even if Trump stands firm on his promise.

He also was attending a dinner welcoming leaders from APEC's 21-member countries.

Trudeau met with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto Saturday night where NAFTA and the TPP were to be on the agenda.

Still, many observers believe that Europe and the U.S. are set to inflict damage on their own economies as they turn away from free trade.

"Japan's view on the TPP is very clear and consistent".

The president said that the APEC members must energize trade and investment to drive growth, make free trade arrangements more open and inclusive, and uphold the multilateral trading regime.

"Barack Obama was not a supporter of the TPP when he became elected and he's leaving office as one of its greatest advocates", Australia's Turnbull said.

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