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Xi calls for better connectivity in Asia-Pacific, accelerated construction of FTAAP

Editor: Zhang Pengfei 丨Xinhua

11-19-2015 08:14 BJT

Full coverage: President Xi Attends G20, APEC Summits

Full coverage: China’s Leaders

MANILA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for concerted efforts to promote connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region and speed up the construction of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Addressing an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit in Manila, Xi put forward a four-point proposal for the region to "steer this giant ship of the Asia-Pacific economy in the right direction."

He called upon APEC economies to press ahead with reform and innovation, build an open economy, implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and promote connectivity.

Xi stressed that nothing should be allowed to disrupt the region's development process and APEC members should spare no efforts to foster a peaceful environment conducive to development.

Asia-Pacific nations, Xi added, should respect each other's development paths chosen in line with their respective conditions and resolve differences through dialogue and consultation.

"I am confident that the vast Pacific Ocean will become a bridge of cooperation, a bond of friendship and a place we call our common home," Xi said.

Noting that better connectivity will increase the potential in economic and social development, Xi recalled that the APEC members inked last year in Beijing an agreement on enhancing physical, institutional and people-to-people connections by 2025.

The connectivity blueprint, Xi stressed, needs to be earnestly carried out in order to achieve tangible results.

"Even the shortest journey can't be finished without taking the first step. Even the most trivial task can't be completed without taking action," he said, quoting an old Chinese saying.

"Connectivity is very important for the Asia-Pacific region's future, given many of our backward infrastructures which need to be modernized in order to liberate people from poverty," said Wilson Lee Flores, a columnist with the Philippine Star newspaper.

He said Xi's advocacy for better connectivity will accelerate the region's economic progress.

In his speech, Xi also called for efforts to boost the openness of the Asia-Pacific economy and uphold the multilateral trade regime.

Citing the "historic step forward" APEC leaders took in Beijing last year by launching the FTAAP process and the "worries about fragmentation" that have been on the rise with various new regional free trade deals cropping up, Xi urged that Asia-Pacific economies "accelerate the realization of the FTAAP and take regional economic integration forward."

"We need to devote ourselves to win-win cooperation, resist protectionism and facilitate fair competition," added the president.

Hailing the proposed FTAAP "win-win and inclusive," Flores said many Asians look forward to China's dynamic leadership in realizing the plan as soon as possible despite some obstacles.

Meanwhile, Xi noted that monetary stimulus policies alone are not enough to address the deep-seated problems in the world economy.

The Chinese president suggested that greater efforts be made to advance economic structural reforms so that the supply system will be better adapted to the changing structure of demand.

"This is an area where the Asia-Pacific can take the lead in the world by adopting new ideas, models and pathways of development," said Xi.

Xi proposed to give full play to APEC's role as a policy platform and an incubator to strengthen cooperation in such areas as Internet economy, blue economy, green economy and urbanization, with a view to improving the region's capacity for independent innovation.

He also stressed the importance of implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda, and urged all countries to mobilize governmental, corporate and civil resources to make contributions to its implementation.

Quoting an ancient Chinese philosopher, he said the key to running a country is to make its people better-off.

"The ultimate aim of development is to serve the people by bringing more and more fruits of development to all our people," Xi said.

CHINA OPPORTUNITIES

As the world's second largest economy, China's economic trend is drawing great attention globally. In his speech, Xi briefed the CEOs on China's current economic situation and direction of reform, from which analysts saw great opportunities for regional cooperation and development.

"With global growth slowing down, China is working vigorously to overcome difficulties and meet challenges by strengthening macro-regulation and effectively advancing reforms," Xi said.

He said the overall economy of China has operated within the reasonable range and maintained steady and fairly rapid growth although monthly and quarterly economic indicators have somewhat fluctuated this year.

In the first three quarters, China's economy grew by 6.9 percent, contributing about 30 percent to global growth.

Considering China's economic scale of over ten trillion U.S. dollars, Xi said such a result has not come easily in the process of economic restructuring and transformation.

"In general, China's positive economic fundamentals and long-term trajectory remain unchanged. What also remain unchanged are the basic facts that China's economy has strong resilience, great potential and ample room for maneuver," according to the Chinese president.

Recognizing that China's economy is still grappling with a complicated internal and external environment, considerable downward pressure and the throes of deep reforms, Xi said there are "unprecedented" opportunities and challenges for China.

Referring to the proposal on China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), Xi said China will step up reform and innovation, accelerate the shift of growth model and economic restructuring, address the difficult issues in development, cultivate new drivers and new edges for development, and create more fresh opportunities for development.

Xi said China will pay more attention to efficiency and quality, innovation, equity and justice, green development, and opening to the outside world.

"China's economic reform will have huge positive impact on China and on the Asia-Pacific region to ensure sustainable, long-term and equitable economic growth," Flores said, adding that China's stability and progress is a strong foundation for Asia-Pacific economic development.

The view of Flores is shared by Chito Romana, a veteran journalist who have lived and worked in China for more than three decades.

"If China can maintain relatively high economic growth, it will benefit Asia-Pacific regional economy and even global economy," Romana said. "Everybody wishes China well."

"If China were to slow down and miss the target, the Southeast Asian countries will suffer, because the regional assembly network has connected all the countries, and inter-country trade is so strong in this region," Romana added.

"China's transition from a labor-intensive manufacturing powerhouse to a consumption-based innovative economy means less carbon footprint, which is good for climate change mitigation, gradual relocation of many manufacturing sites to neighboring ASEAN and South Asian countries, and emergence of world-class Chinese companies that can provide all sorts of high-end services and technologies," said Richard Javad Heydarian, assistant professor of political science at the Manila-based De La Salle University.

"China will increasingly transform into a consumer market and source of innovation for Asia and beyond," Heydarian said.

"While pushing for a more proactive strategy of opening up, we will build a new system of open economy with an even higher level of openness," said the Chinese president.

Xi pledged that China will accelerate efforts to build high-standard free-trade agreements (FTAs).

The negotiations for upgrading the China-ASEAN FTA are almost completed, and will soon produce positive results, Xi said.

Meanwhile, the China-Australia FTA and the China-South Korea FTA are both expected to come into force by the end of this year, giving a fresh boost to economic growth.

"China will also work with relevant parties to finish at an early date negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) while accelerating talks on a China-Japan-South Korea FTA," Xi said. The RCEP is a free trade pact involving the ten-member ASEAN and six other countries, including China.

Xi reiterated that China's policy on welcoming foreign investment will not change. "China's door to the outside world will forever stay open."

On the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi said China is committed to open regionalism and has signed deals with many countries in and beyond the region to harmonize their policies and development strategies.

"Through implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will go for even broader, deeper and more sophisticated cooperation at the regional level, and jointly foster a regional framework of open, inclusive, balanced and mutually beneficial cooperation," said the Chinese leader.

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