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Time for Asia-Pacific to think big

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Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, left, and trade secretary Gregory Domingo met the press after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meeting ended in Manila Nov. 17.   © Kyodo

     As world leaders fly to the Philippines to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, they do so against the backdrop of an unprecedented push towards free trade in the region. With three major trade agreements under development in Asia, there is the potential for them to pursue the most ambitious global free trade agenda since the creation of the World Trade Organization 20 years ago.

     The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the ASEAN Economic Community and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership are all important efforts to liberalize trade in industrial goods, agricultural products, services and trade-related investment. But at the same time, these overlapping agreements suggest the seed of a grander project that should be planted in the minds of the leaders at APEC -- bringing all of these deals under one comprehensive agreement to create a free trade zone spanning the entire Asia-Pacific region.

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