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China to 'earnestly study' Pacific trade pact

15 november 2011, 16:39
Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and US President Barack Obama hold a bi-lateral meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. ©AFP
Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and US President Barack Obama hold a bi-lateral meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. ©AFP
China said Sunday it would "earnestly study" whether to seek membership of a proposed free-trade zone spanning the Pacific that has rapidly gained momentum at a regional summit in Honolulu, AFP reports.

"China will earnestly study this issue," Chinese foreign ministry official Pang Sen told a press briefing in Honolulu.

"We always adopt an open attitude toward all regional arrangements that are conducive to strengthening regional economic integration," Pang added.

US President Barack Obama's bid to create the world's largest free trade zone across the Pacific gained further traction Sunday as Canada and Mexico followed Japan into accession talks.

At an Asia-Pacific summit in his native Hawaii, Obama said harnessing the huge trade potential of the dynamic region was vital as he wooed countries from across the Pacific Rim into the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

However, US officials have not publicly sought TPP membership for China, whose economic policies are often criticized by trading partners as protectionist.

Responding to earlier complaints by China that it had not been invited to the pact, US Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman told reporters Saturday that members must first meet certain standards of trade liberalization.

"TPP is not something that one gets invited to. It's something that one aspires to," he said.

Pang declined comment on critical remarks by Obama, who used a press conference at the close of the summit to press China to speed up reform of its currency policies, saying Americans were "impatient" with the pace of change.

The United States -- along with the European Union -- has long accused China of keeping its yuan artificially low, fueling a flow of cheap exports blamed for hurting American jobs.

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