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APEC to focus on advancing Asia-Pacific free trade

The 21 countries to share concerns over protectionism

Free trade will be the focus of APEC talks in Papua New Guinea mid-November.    © Reuters

BANGKOK -- The 21 member countries in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation will meet this month to discuss free trade within the region and share concerns over the rising tide of protectionism.

The APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting will be held on Nov. 17 and 19 at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. A draft seen by the Nikkei Asian Review showed that leaders "acknowledge the importance of APEC’s regional economic integration agenda, including how to advance, in a comprehensive and systematic manner, the process toward the eventual realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific."

FTAAP is an economic framework that covers all 21 APEC members.

The draft also stated that the leaders "welcome recent improvements in the global and regional economic outlook." But it also said "that outlook is also heavily tainted with barriers to new areas of trade growth and the reemergence of protectionism."

In its 2017 declaration, APEC leaders said they will "recommit to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices, recognizing the role of legitimate trade defense instruments." Such strong words were not seen in the draft.

APEC leaders will discuss issues based on this draft. There are members like the U.S., which prefer bilateral deals, and others that pursue multilateral agreements. The two sides are likely to vie for an edge in the upcoming APEC meeting.

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