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Xi urges cooperation for free trade in region

By An Baijie in Da Nang, Vietnam and zhang Yunbi in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-11 07:10

President calls on ASEAN, APEC to promote Asia-Pacific connectivity

President Xi Jinping called for joining hands to advance the buildup of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific while addressing the leaders of Southeast Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific economies on Friday.

In addition, China firmly supports the central role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, he said at a dialogue of economic leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and of ASEAN members on Friday.

Xi said China is willing to work with ASEAN to push for an early completion of the RCEP negotiations.

The gathering Xi addressed on Friday was convened for the first times on the sidelines of the ongoing annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.

The FTAAP and RCEP both aim to boost regional free trade and connectivity, the FTAAP among APEC economies, and the RCEP among the 10 ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.

The FTAAP's feasibility and cost-benefit studies were approved at the APEC meeting in Lima, Peru, last year, and the 20th round of RCEP negotiations was held in South Korea last month.

Guo Yanjun, director of the Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said that Xi's latest call to advance both the FTAAP and RCEP are a sign of China's growing role as a productive navigator in promoting free trade and East Asia cooperation.

East Asia has seen steady growth of trade and investment within the region, and the mutual trust between China and ASEAN has increased recently as the situation in the South China Sea has become more stable, Guo noted.

At the dialogue, leaders discussed cooperation between APEC and ASEAN.

Xi said there are great prospects for synergizing cooperation between APEC and ASEAN as the two groupings are interlinked and they share some principles.

APEC is the most influential platform for economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, and ASEAN is the most dynamic regional integration organization in Asia.

All parties should work together to build an open economy in the Asia-Pacific region and promote building a framework of regional cooperation on the basis of equality and consultation, common participation and universal benefit, Xi said.

APEC and ASEAN should act as two engines that push forward the buildup of a more extensive, in-depth interconnectivity network by introducing measures for infrastructure construction, policies, regulation and personnel exchanges, he said.

Speaking of the ties between China and ASEAN, Xi said China promotes friendly cooperation with ASEAN and supports the construction of the ASEAN Community as well as ASEAN's central role in regional cooperation.

China will further promote the synergy of the Belt and Road Initiative with ASEAN's development strategy, improve the China-ASEAN strategic partnership and forge a closer China-ASEAN Community with a Shared Future, Xi said.

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