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“Beijing Eyes New Regional Free - Trade Deal As U.S.-led Pact Falters”
by South China Morning News   
May 1st, 2014

Beijing has sought to take the lead in kick-starting the formation of a regional free-trade agreement as a US-led pact, which does not include China, faces uncertainty.

Wang Shouwen, an assistant commerce minister, said yesterday that discussions were under way to set up a working group that would explore the feasibility of an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTAAP).

“This year, as the host of Apec [Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum], China wishes to turn the FTAAP from a long-cherished wish into action,” Wang was quoted by mainland media as saying. The concept of an FTAAP was first floated in 2006 at an Apec summit in Hanoi but has not taken off.

Wang said the feasibility study would assess the FTAAP’s possible economic benefits and probe ways to make use of existing free-trade agreements.

But he added the study would only seek to provide suggestions and would not necessarily result in an immediate start of negotiations to set up a free-trade agreement. “Apec members would have to decide whether to start the negotiations,” he said.

Regional trade ministers will meet later this month in Qingdao to prepare for the Apec summit in Beijing in November.

Premier Li Keqiang raised the possibility of such a feasibility study at the Boao Forum in Hainan on April 10.

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