Asia-Pacific Leaders Push Trade Deals At Summit Talks

An exterior view of one of the buildings hosting the APEC Summit in Yanqi Lake, Huairou district of Beijing, China, 11 November 2014. The APEC 2014 Summit and related meetings will be held in Beijing from 05 to 11 November, gathering leaders of 21 member economies. EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

By Joanna Chiu

BEIJING (DPA) — Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Pacific Rim nations Tuesday to speed up a Beijing-backed free trade agreement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. 

"Clarify the goal, the direction, the road map," Xi told the other leaders, including President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

"Let prospects become reality and make the two sides of the Pacific highly open and integrated," he said in opening remarks. 

China and the United States are both pushing for progress on what many see as rival trade agreements.

Beijing is promoting the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a free trade zone seeking to involve all APEC members, while Washington is pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 12 Asia-Pacific countries excluding China.

US officials have denied the deals are in competition.

Obama announced Tuesday that progress had been made on a separate trade deal.

The US and China had reached an "understanding" in negotiations to eliminate tariffs on high-tech goods, he said. The negotiations would help bring talks on an Information Technology Agreement to a "rapid conclusion," Obama said. 

Leaders from Pacific Rim countries and territories were in a resort north of Beijing for the main day of talks at the APEC summit.

The meeting followed a number of short encounters between leaders of countries with strained ties.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met for the first time in eight months at a welcome dinner on Monday evening, Yonhap News Agency reported. Abe and Park were sat next to each other at the dinner, the report said.

Territorial disagreements and disputes over their wartime history – in particular the issue of Korean sex slaves during World War II – have complicated ties between the two nations.

Abe also met Chinese President Xi Jinping for their first bilateral talks as leaders on Monday, amid similar tensions over disputed territory.

Obama and Putin, whose countries are embroiled in a row over the crisis in Ukraine, had also met fleetingly on the sidelines of the summit.

The two leaders "exchanged a few words," according to Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Tuesday's talks take place at a hotel resort on the banks of Yanqi lake north of Beijing.

Formed 25 years ago, APEC seeks to promote sustainable growth and economic integration, and reduce trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region.