Pacific trade pact gains, but friction remains

November 13, 2011 • National News

President Barack Obama answers questions at the APEC CEO Summit with Boeing Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney in Honolulu, Hawaii on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

HONOLULU (AP) — Moves toward a Pacific free trade zone gained momentum Saturday, though friction over the U.S.-backed initiative were apparent, with China visibly cool to the idea.

President Barack Obama, flanked by leaders of eight other nations involved in negotiations on setting up the trading bloc, dubbed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, said he was optimistic the group could set a legal framework by next year.

“It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done,” he said on the sidelines of an annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

By progressively removing barriers and bottlenecks that slow trade and business, APEC members hope to give their economies a significant boost over the longer-term. At the same time they are working toward a broader agreement, countries are still forging separate free-trade deals, aiming to re-energize growth at a time when the world economy most needs dynamism in the Asia-Pacific region to offset the malaise spreading from crisis-stricken Europe.

All 21 members of APEC have committed to the eventual goal of forging a regionwide free-trade zone. The so-called TPP is billed as a “building block” of that ambition, but other, rival arrangements have already emerged.

The current membership of the Pacific trade pact includes only Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Login to read more

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