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UPDATED: October 31, 2014 NO. 45, NOVEMBER 6, 2014
Free Trade for the Future
APEC leaders' Beijing meeting is expected to further propel regional economic integration
By Bai Shi

THE POWER OF TRADE: Pulp imported from Indonesia is unloaded in Qinzhou, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on May 28, before being processed into paper products that will be sold around the world (WANG SHEN)

On the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), China's capital city Beijing will host the 22nd annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) on November 10-11 with the theme Shaping the future through Asia-Pacific partnership. The meeting and other related events combined are known as the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders' Week.

The AELM first came to China in 2001 when the meeting was held in the booming economic and business hub of Shanghai. At that time, China, though firmly on the fast lane of economic growth, was not yet a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) until it was admitted a month later at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the WTO on November 10, 2001 in Doha, Qatar.

That ninth AELM in Shanghai achieved success, as APEC leaders reached consensus on many issues. For example, APEC adopted the Shanghai Accord and issued its first Counter-Terrorism Statement following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

China has undergone huge changes in the last 13 years. It has become the world's second largest economy and an important trading partner for the rest of the world. As the world economy is facing sluggish growth and many uncertain factors, China's role in promoting Asia-Pacific cooperation has caught the attention of regional economies.

Priorities of discussion

The economic leaders' week is the high point for the 2014 APEC China Year, with the APEC community holding great expectations for fruitful results.

At a think-tank forum in Beijing on October 29, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that there are over 100 cooperation proposals from all APEC member economies to be put forth at the annual economic leaders' meeting. More than half of the proposals have been proffered by China.

"Many of China's proposals have been met with active response and support by other member economies, such as starting the negotiation process of the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and charting a blueprint for promoting connectivity," Wang said.

These proposals will strengthen the role of APEC in promoting regional economic cooperation, adding new momentum for Asia-Pacific development, Wang said.

China's proposals for the 2014 APEC meetings are practical and mutually beneficial. Some of the proposals have already been put into practice, Shen Minghui, an associate researcher of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Beijing Review.

"Amid sluggish global economic growth, China needs to play a more active role in promoting economic cooperation and free trade in the Asia-Pacific region," Shen said.

At a press conference in Beijing on October 16, Shen Danyang, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, announced three priorities of this year's AELM: advancing regional economic integration, promoting innovative development, pushing economic reform and growth, and strengthening comprehensive connectivity and infrastructure development.

"After the preparatory work of the senior officials' meetings and ministerial meetings, APEC members have developed extensive and in-depth consensus on these topics," Shen said.

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