(Yomiuri: November 20, 2015 – p. 11)
By Takeyuki Hitokoto, Kunihiko Yasue in Manila
The basic Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement concluded in October attracted great attention at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit of 21 countries and territories which ended on Nov. 19. Five countries/territories have expressed interest in joining, signifying the TPP’s potential to expand in the future. However, China and Russia, which are wary of being overshadowed by this framework led by Japan and the U.S., are adamantly opposed to the TPP. The road ahead remains bumpy for achieving APEC’s goal of regional economic integration.
Regional economic integration is one of the important goals of APEC, which is aiming at a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) covering the entire region. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the TPP at the meeting on Nov. 19, stressing that “it will serve as a basis for making new rules for a new economic order under the FTAAP.” Other leaders also welcomed Abe’s statement, expressing their wish to “strengthen regional unity through economic partnership.”
The APEC Leaders’ Declaration issued on the same day also says: “We note the recent development on the free trade agreements in the region, including the finalization of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.” The TPP has now become a dominant framework that may potentially form the core of a regional economic partnership in the future.
As a matter of fact, several AEPC members have expressed an interest in joining the TPP.
President Benigno Aquino, who hosted the summit, indicated the Philippines’ intent to participate in the TPP to “acquire a bigger market” at a news conference held after the summit. The ROK, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand had also showed interest prior to the APEC Summit.
Meanwhile, China and Russia have remained critical of the TPP.
The TPP, with its highly transparent rules and extensive tariff abolition, represents a formidable hurdle for China and Russia, which lag in economic reforms. It is reckoned that these countries fear that they may also lose the initiative in the FTAAP if the TPP becomes the standard for the process of economic integration. (Slightly abridged)