APEC summit: at the crossroads

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The APEC summit, where the heads of the member-states discussed how to address the economic woes that the international community is now facing, concluded in Lima on November 20. Besides heads of state, big business has also participated at the summit. The participants touched upon the issue of political leaders’ impact on the global economic situation, as well as frequently discussed questions on removing trade barriers. The international analytical center “Rethinking Russia” presents Russian experts’ comments on the results of the summit.

Ivan Loshkarev

Political scientist, expert in international relations

This APEC summit, like all other top level meetings, has both formal and informal sides. The official ceremony was devoted to sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, as well as regional integration problems and strengthening global demand. In practice it is quite difficult to level different states’ economic growth rates. Moreover, for APEC the issue of regional integration is closely connected to the Asia-Pacific free-trade zone. Its project has been discussed for a decade already, but still there has been no significant progress.

The informal side of the summit is the discussion of the prospects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump’s unexpected victory will almost certainly lead to the failure of this ambitious project of Barack Obama. The TPP deal, as envisioned by the authors of the project, is aimed at keeping a new balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, establishing the basis for keeping China’s economy in check. In this context, China is getting a chance to turn the tables on Washington and suggest an alternative – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Beijing launched this project as an alternative to the TPP. But China is now acting (and is likely to act in future) with caution, in order for Trump and his team not to perceive the RCEP as a potential threat. That is why there were no breakthrough solutions made at the summit. Nevertheless, at least an opportunity to assess the sentiments of their partners was of high importance to all APEC members.

Denis Kuznetsov

Ph.D. candidate, Department of World Political Processes, MGIMO University

If one were to characterize the recent APEC summit in a few words, the most appropriate wording would be “state of uncertainty”. This uncertainty, as well as the novelty of the summit, was determined by the fact that the United States was represented by two presidents: outgoing President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump. The two have opposite agendas for the development of the Asia-Pacific region: Obama stands for developing all the initiatives in the region, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while Trump, even though he did not attend the summit, influenced its work due to his promises to ratchet up pressure on China and repudiate all agreements that are likely to tie his hands. This uncertainty tinged the leaders’ rhetoric: Barack Obama called on the partner nations to support the TPP, Xi Jinping once again introduced his own initiative to establish a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region, the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte called for a new world order, led by Russia and China, and Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to persuade the partners not to be afraid of Trump and held several meetings on bilateral relations. For Russia APEC is an important organizational resource that allows it to strengthen its presence in the region, including as a sign of status. During the longstanding anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the West, there has been a search for sources of investment in the development of the Far East, as well as increasing Eurasian integration and the promotion of ideas connected to the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt project. This has in turn contributed to the intensification of diplomatic and economic cooperation with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region that are showing disunity. In this regard, APEC is a key platform for discussing macro-regional regulation issues, and today all members understand this. The question is whether the course for creating the TPP, based on the so-called standards of WTO-Extra/WTO+, will be pursued, and how this trans-regional block will affect the whole region. Today this is the key question to resolve the uncertainty.

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