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15 November 2009

US, Vietnam support Trans-Pacific Partnership

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Two Apec economies - the US and Vietnam - have committed to work towards a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) goal, reported the Channel News Asia.

This came a day after Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed at the Apec CEO Summit on Friday that four more economies have expressed interest to join the TPP - a free trade agreement between Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand and Chile.

Besides the US and Vietnam, the other two economies considering signing up are Australia and Peru.

Leaders who spoke on Saturday, the final day of the two-day CEO Summit in Singapore, also touched on the various regional architecture in the Asia Pacific, with calls not to shut out new ideas like the East Asia or Asia-Pacific communities.

US President Barack Obama was not around at the Apec CEO Summit to give his keynote address on Saturday. But his message of deepening cooperation with the region was delivered both by him in Japan and Ron Kirk, his trade representative in Singapore.

Kirk said: "Our engagement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership gives us the opportunity to address gaps in our current agreements, and to set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.

"To fulfil the full promise of Apec, we must look not only at what we can do for ourselves in the region but also at how we can work together to demonstrate leadership on trade for the entire world."

A key message that has come across from the Apec CEO Summit is the important role that both the private and people sectors can play together with the governments in dealing with the whole range of challenges which the region will face after the financial crisis.

Some leaders hope Apec can go beyond just discussions on economic issues. That is why Australia is initiating an Asia Pacific community by 2020 - an idea which Thailand supports.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said: "We have to be clear, we have to have that common vision of integration. As to how we get there and when we get there, there are so many alternatives."

And that task now lies with Japan, the next Apec Chair. Apec must build on the initiatives in the Leaders Declaration on Sunday to ensure member economies stay on course in their goals of integration and recovery.


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