Chinese officials say more countries are looking to join a China-led trading bloc after Donald Trump’s election victory raised fears the United States would scrap free trade deals.
Trump campaigned for US president on a promise to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and also threatened to impose steep tariffs against China and Mexico.
Pacific Rim regional leaders responded on Sunday by saying they would push ahead with the TPP, while vowing to fight protectionism.
“We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism,” they said at a summit meeting of the 21-country Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in Peru.
On his last foreign trip before he leaves the White House in January, President Barack Obama said abandoning TPP would be a mistake for the United States.
“I think not moving forward would undermine our position across the region and our ability to shape the rules of global trade in a way that reflects our values and our interests,” Obama told a news conference at the end of the summit.
Obama negotiated the TPP but has stopped seeking its congressional approval and says its ratification is now up to the incoming Trump administration.
China is not part of the TPP and has been pushing an alternative vision of free trade in Asia under the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which does not currently include countries in the Americas.
Tan Jian, a senior member of China’s delegation at the summit, said more countries are now seeking to join its 16-member bloc, including Peru and Chile, and that current members want to reach a deal as soon as possible to counter rising protectionism.
In a final declaration, APEC leaders said the TPP and RCEP were both valid paths to a broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which has long been a goal of the APEC bloc that accounts for 57% of the world economy.