His Majesty to meet Chinese President, attend dinner
Hakim Hayat in Beijing, China

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping today for a bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in the iconic Tiananmen Square and attend a welcoming dinner at Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre.

His Majesty, who arrived in Beijing late last evening, will join 20 other leaders at the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) that begins today, chaired by Xi Jinping.

Tomorrow, His Majesty and the other Apec leaders will attend retreat sessions and other related events at the newly built Yanqi Lake International Convention Centre, located in a scenic and once-quiet mountainous district, which is about 50km north of Beijing’s city centre. The new convention centre is built in traditional Chinese architectural style and boasts a 21-storey scallop-shaped hotel.

The AELM, an annual summit attended by heads of government of the 21 Pacific Rim member economies, plays a vital role in promoting trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region and is regarded as one of the major platforms to discuss regional economic cooperation, trade and investment which can simultaneously strengthen bilateral relations among member economies.

A wide range of issues are being addressed at the forum’s ongoing week-long meetings in Beijing, culminating in the summit of leaders of the forum’s 21 members which begins today and ends tomorrow.

China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua recently quoted His Majesty in an interview saying that he was pleased to know that Apec has remained focused on making sure that it’s easier for goods and services to flow across the region.

“In terms of China’s priorities for this year, we are supportive of China’s proposals on regional economic integration, in particular the idea to explore the development of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. Currently, many of our economies have signed a number of bilateral and plurilateral free trade agreements. Some of the elements in these existing agreements can form the basis of a possible FTAAP in the future,” the article quoted His Majesty as saying.

On the drawing up of the Apec Blueprint on Connectivity, His Majesty in the interview said he saw this as something very valuable for businesses to connect, not just in the physical sense with proper infrastructure but also policy-reforms, to help our businesses grow and expand.

Meanwhile, as the host of this year’s Apec Summit, China is pushing for the launch of a feasibility study on the FTAAP, an Asia-Pacific regional free trade area, but is reportedly facing resistance from Apec members including the United States and Japan, which are spearheading a rival free trade deal currently being negotiated, which is the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which encompasses 12 economies – the US, Australia, Japan, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Also expected to be deliberated at the Apec meetings is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement involving China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand with the 10 Asean member countries. The RCEP takes into consideration the different levels of development of the participating countries and will include appropriate forms of flexibility. It is expected to be concluded by the end of 2015.

As part of the Apec Blueprint on Connectivity, Apec member economies are drawing up a new regional connectivity blueprint to bring markets, businesses and people closer together so as to facilitate trade and investment that can result in greater long-term growth.

This involves physical infrastructure needs and deeper institutional and people-to-people links.

The process of the economic blueprint also extends to the simplification of customs and immigration procedures, standardisation of industry regulations and standards and cutting of administrative costs for things such as permits and shipping containers.

Also high on the agenda in the Apec meetings is the signing of a regional anti-corruption network, likely based in China. This is seen as a plan for China to extend its domestic anti-graft campaign internationally, which also involves a plan for information-sharing.

Apart from trade, Apec world leaders are likely to touch on serious and pressing issues that need concerted global action such as the Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The outcome of the 22nd Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting will be documented in its Economic Leaders’ Declaration. - Borneo Bulletin (10 November 2014)