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News & Events

[ 22-12-2015 ]
TPP An Important Milestone In APEC Context

NEW YORK, Dec 21 (Bernama) -- Reflecting on the negotiations leading to the recent finalisation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Atlanta, Wendy Cutler, a former Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR), said the TPP finalisation is indeed a milestone also in the context of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

APEC held its 2015 summit last month in Manila under the Philippines presidency, almost coinciding with the formation of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation in Kuala Lumpur under Malaysia's chair.

Cutler, now Vice-President and Managing Director of Asia Society Policy Institute, said since the TPP's conclusion, a number of countries had publicly expressed varying degrees of interest in joining, including Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Although she is no longer part of the administration, she hinted about other ongoing private conversations with other APEC member countries interested to join the TPP which could be a catalyst for further open trade across the Asia-Pacific.

She rejected the argument that the TPP would compete with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), another far-reaching Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, that many observers regard as a TPP rival - especially since RCEP includes China.

"I don't think that they're competing and I don't think (a country) has to choose one over the other.

"One is just more trade-liberalising than the other," Cutler said.

The TPP still needs to be ratified by all 12 countries before it can enter into force - a political process that Cutler had described in the past as "extremely complex and difficult."

Some APEC member states want to get India into the APEC fold with one Asian diplomat describing it as an "anomaly" for leaving India out of the APEC in the first place.

Considering that India's economic projections are very promising, with annual growth rate projections of "at least 7 per cent" in the coming years, a section of the APEC members believe it would be a fallacy not to include India in the APEC.

Indeed, many suggest India could provide strong growth impulses to the region as China's economic pace would be sluggish in the period ahead.

"APEC does succeed because it intimately brings together the business community with the government.

"With collaboration in mind, a case can be made for continued expansion of the group," said a senior official for APEC in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the US State Department J. Matthew.

Though the APEC group already represents 21 economies, other major economic powers, like India, are not included in the annual talks in an official capacity.

"The idea of adding membership is always discussed," said visiting professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Mari Elka Pangestu.

He suggested that non-members could participate through other channels as a guest or an observer during the summit.

"Economies that are serious about joining APEC at a future date really would be well advised to take opportunities to have their officials go in and see how APEC actually functions.

"They can also determine whether or not the joint general commitment to free and open trade liberalisation matches their own policy settings and whether they can work effectively and productively in that environment," Matthews maintained.

India's economy is only partly integrated into the global economy, particularly regional trade arrangements in a dynamic Asia-Pacific.

The emergence of regional trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would further distance India from the global supply chains crucial to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" initiative.

Asia Society says India's entry into APEC, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of global GDP, would provide a pathway for greater integration into the region's economy.

-- BERNAMA