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Nov 8, 2014 2:24 AM

Asia-Pacific ministers endorse trade, graft pacts

The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) Ministers from Pacific Rim countries on Saturday endorsed a call to formally start work on a free-trade initiative seen as an effort by China to raise its influence in trade policy.

The ministers meeting ahead of next week's gathering of leaders from the United States, China, Japan and other countries at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit also endorsed a proposal to cooperate on fighting official corruption, Chinese officials said.

The trade initiative the Free-Trade Area of the Asia Pacific comes out of earlier promises by APEC governments to liberalize trade. It is being promoted by Beijing in what analysts see as a Chinese effort to gain influence in U.S.-dominated global trade and financial regulation.

The proposal endorsed by trade ministers from the 21 APEC nations calls for the group to launch a formal study of the initiative and promote cooperation in services, investment and other trade issues, according to the Chinese minister of commerce, Gao Hucheng.

"We believe this roadmap will guide the substantive process in the coming year," Gao told a news conference.

The two-day gathering of leaders, including Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, begins Monday.

The United States is, along with China, a co-leader of efforts to launch work on Beijing's initiative. But Washington and some other governments have objected privately that the Chinese-led initiative is at too early a stage to take up at next week's meeting and will distract from a more ambitious U.S. initiative dubbed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Progress on the TPP, which involves 12 governments including Japan and Mexico, has stalled as governments wrestle over issues including proposals to lower barriers to trade in autos and farm goods.

As host of the gathering, China has pushed hard to make its initiative the centerpiece of this week's events.

It is one of a series of initiatives by China, the world's second-largest economy, to raise its profile in political and economic issues. It led the launch last month with 20 other countries of a bank to finance Asian infrastructure investment.


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