APEC wary US-led trade pact could become 'rich-economy club'

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos waves during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015

APEC does not want to see a United States-led free-trade agreement become a "rich-economy club", a senior forum official said Monday.

Speaking ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the Philippine capital Manila, Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC secretariat, said the organisation's 21 members had already entered into a "noodle bowl" of about 150 trade agreements and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) needed to be compatible with those deals.

The TPP would be the world's largest, grouping the US with 11 other APEC member countries including Japan, Australia, and Canada.

"APEC... has not been involved formally in TPP, but of course we've observed progress and of course we'll all be pleased to see the text out in the public arena now so that we can judge that," Bollard told a news conference.

"And I think it's fair to say that APEC doesn't want to see different trade agreements going off in different directions -- wouldn't want to see TPP as a rich economy club going off like that."

The terms of the TPP, which also includes Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, were released earlier this month.

Fellow APEC members South Korea and Indonesia have also both signalled interest in joining.

However the deal excludes APEC member and US rival China.

Beijing is seeking to push its own vision of an Asia-Pacific trade pact, and began campaigning for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) when it hosted the APEC summit last year.

Last week Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said in Beijing that China would "actively work for the establishment of the FTAAP".

APEC accounts for more than half of global economic output and nearly half of world trade.

Bollard said APEC was studying how all these trade agreements in the region impact on each other and how they could be integrated. The study is being led by the US and China.

"Progress will be reviewed by ministers this afternoon and tomorrow. This report will be finalised next year," he said.

"We see (the) study as the way where we'll be able to judge where all those are going, how they fit together, could they conflict with one another, and what might come to help integrate all that," he added.