【英语中国】中国重拾建立亚太自贸区战略 Apec

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2014-5-19 07:15

小艾摘要: Pacific Rim trade ministers have called for “concrete steps” to be taken this year towards establishing a broad free trade area some see as a Chinese effort to respond to a US-led push in the region ...
Apec
Pacific Rim trade ministers have called for “concrete steps” to be taken this year towards establishing a broad free trade area some see as a Chinese effort to respond to a US-led push in the region.

Trade ministers from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) countries, including China and the US, said in a statement on Sunday that they had agreed to set up a committee to “kick off and advance the process” of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. They also said they had agreed to pursue the pact with “intensified focus” and “by taking concrete steps forward in 2014”.

The call for greater economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region came as Vietnamese authorities sought to bring an end to the series of deadly anti-China protests that followed a move by Beijing to begin drilling for oil in a disputed part of the South China Sea. It also fits into a bigger strategic context, with the US and China both manoeuvring for influence in the region.

The move to revive the quasi-dormant idea of an Asia-Pacific free trade area had been advocated by host China in the lead-up to this weekend’s meeting in the city of Qingdao. It came just ahead of Monday’s meeting in Singapore of ministers involved in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

China has long been wary of the 12-country TPP, which has been billed as the economic backbone of President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia and a key component of Washington’s strategic response to a rising China. It has been working to build the credibility of alternatives, including an Apec area and an agreement to turn China’s own trade deal with southeast Asian nations into a broader regional pact.

The TPP itself has been mooted as a potential building block in a broader Asia-Pacific trade area, with some raising the prospect that China could eventually join. The US is also an Apec member and supports the idea of the bigger regional trade area.

But by pushing to inject new momentum into the Apec idea, China is asserting itself at a crucial time in the TPP discussions, which have been bogged down in recent months, and presenting an alternative path towards greater regional integration.

TPP negotiators met in Vietnam last week and reportedly made progress. But several ministers are skipping the Singapore TPP meeting and US officials have played down expectations that a deal could be done in the immediate future.

Separately, Apec officials indicated on Sunday that there had been progress on efforts to update the dated global rules for the trade in high-tech goods. In a statement Apec ministers said that “key participants have committed to find creative ways to move forward” on an update to the 1997 Information Technology Agreement.

Talks in Geneva to update the ITA, which removes tariffs on nominated high-tech goods, broke down last year over China’s efforts to exclude a long list of products. The US and others have cited the ITA negotiations as a key test for China as it seeks to join other talks, including those to reach a new global deal on the $4.6tn annual trade in services.

Mike Froman, the US trade representative, said the US had brought “new ideas” to China in recent days for how to proceed and received support from other Apec members.

“We made progress and narrowed our differences with China, but we are not there yet,” he said in a statement emailed to the Financial Times. But he added that “with intensified work by key participants, an expanded ITA agreement is achievable in the near term.”

环太平洋各国的贸易部长们呼吁,今年内朝着建立广泛的自由贸易区采取“切实行动”。在一些人看来,此举是中国针对美国在该地区发起的努力作出的回应。

亚太经合组织(APEC) 21个成员经济体(包括中国和美国)的贸易部长上周日发表声明称,他们同意成立一个委员会,以“启动并推进(建立一个亚太自由贸易区的)进程”。他们还表示,各方同意“从2014年起为加强区域经济一体化和推进亚太自贸区采取切实行动”。

加强亚太地区经济一体化的呼吁出炉之际,越南当局正试图制止本国爆发的一系列致命的反华抗议活动。这些抗议是由中国方面开始在南中国海中越争议海域钻探石油引发的。同时,在美国和中国在亚太地区角逐影响力的大背景下,这一呼吁也具有更大的战略内涵。

重拾亚太自由贸易区这个近乎休眠的想法,是东道主中国在上周末APEC青岛会议的筹备阶段提出的。周一,参与美国主导的《跨太平洋战略经济伙伴关系协定》(TPP)谈判的各国部长将在新加坡开会。

中国对涉及12个国家的TPP一直抱有警惕态度。TPP被宣扬为美国总统巴拉克?奥巴马(Barack Obama)“重返亚洲”战略的经济支柱,是华盛顿方面针对中国崛起作出的战略回应的一个关键组成部分。中国近期致力于打造替代方案的可信度,包括建立一个APEC自贸区,并达成协议、将中国与东南亚国家签署的贸易协定扩大为一个更广泛的地区协定。

TPP本身也被一些人视为更广泛的亚太自贸区的潜在跳板,他们提出了中国最终加入TPP的可能性。作为APEC成员国,美国支持更大的区域自贸区的想法。

但是,通过推动向APEC自贸区的想法注入新的动力,中国在TPP谈判处于关键时刻时出招,提出了加大区域一体化的替代路径。TPP谈判近几个月来已陷入僵局。

TPP谈判代表上周在越南开会,据报道取得了进展。但是,数个国家的部长将不参加新加坡的TPP会议,美国官员也淡化了各方有望很快达成协议的预期。

另外,APEC上周日表示,更新全球高科技产品贸易过时规则的努力取得了进展。APEC的贸易部长们在声明中表示,在修订1997年《信息技术产品协议》(Information Technology Agreement,简称ITA)一事上,“谈判主要参与方同意将寻找创造性的路径向前推进”。

在日内瓦举行的更新ITA的谈判,旨在消除一系列高科技产品的关税。这些谈判在去年破裂,原因是中国寻求将一长串产品排除在免税范围之外。美国和其他方面将ITA谈判视作一块考验中国的试金石,因为中国正寻求加入其他磋商,包括为每年4.6万亿美元的服务贸易达成全球新协议的谈判。

美国贸易代表迈克?弗罗曼(Mike Froman)表示,美国近日就如何推进谈判向中国提出了一些“新想法”,并得到APEC其他成员经济体的支持。

“我们取得了进展,缩小了我方与中方的分歧,但我们还没有到达终点,”他在一份通过电子邮件发给英国《金融时报》的声明中表示。但他补充称:“在主要参与者的加紧努力下,ITA扩围有望在短期内实现。”

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