APEC ministers agree on details of study for regional free trade

APEC ministers agree on details of study for regional free trade
A colorful stage depicting an upside down jelly fish served as the dance floor for frenzied delegates for APEC summit in Boracay.

BORACAY ISLANDS, Philippines - Trade ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific economies agreed Sunday on details of a study to identify challenges and ways toward the creation of a region-wide free trade zone, as they wrapped up a two-day meeting in the Philippines.

The ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum "welcome the progress on the Collective Strategic Study" on crystallizing the idea of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, they said in a statement released after the meeting on the resort island of Boracay.

"We acknowledge the importance of this study in providing useful analysis of the opportunities and challenges ahead," it said. The ministers instructed officials to report progress on the study for the ambitious free trade initiative by November when their leaders are slated to meet, with an eye to completing it by the end of 2016.

Last November, APEC leaders affirmed at a summit in Beijing their commitment to realizing the FTAAP "as early as possible" and agreed to launch the strategic study.

The action comes as negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative that includes the United States and Japan but not China - seen as a counter to Beijing's growing influence in the region - have stalled despite Washington striving to secure a deal by this summer.

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