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    Nov 18, 2015

    TPP and South China Sea likely to dominate Apec summit


    AS LEADERS from 21 countries gather in Manila today for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit, hot-button issues not discussed by trade ministers since last week, such as the United States-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and the South China Sea disputes, look set to take centre stage, media reported.

    The TPP deal, reached on Oct 5 between the US and 11 Pacific Rim nations, aims to liberalise commerce in 40 per cent of the world's economy.

    However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is not part of the TPP, said yesterday that the "clandestine talks" leading to the deal do not help promote stability in Asia-Pacific, reported Reuters.

    Mr Putin stressed in an article published in the Kremlin website the importance of implementing the roadmap approved in Beijing last year, which calls for Apec to establish an Asia-Pacific free trade zone.

    US President Barack Obama has said he wanted the TPP to help boost US influence in East Asia and counter the rise of China.

    The TPP was not closely discussed at the Apec ministerial meeting held since Thursday in Manila, a source told Russia's Sputnik online media yesterday.

    But Sputnik also said trade ministers of US and Japan have discussed the TPP on the sidelines of the meeting.

    The TPP and South China Sea may dominate discussions when Mr Obama meets the other leaders in the two-day summit, reported Bloomberg.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping will probably use Apec to again set out China's commitment to development and trade in the region, said the news agency.

    China has had success enlisting countries aside from the US to join its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is promoting investment along the "Silk Road" trading routes to Europe - one overland and one by sea.

    Yesterday, Chinese vice-foreign minister Liu Zhenmin made an unusually defiant speech in Beijing, saying China has the "right and ability" to seize South China Sea islands occupied by other countries but has "exercised maximum restraint", Agence France-Presse reported.

    Mr Obama, who has arrived in Manila, yesterday offered the Philippines a warship as part of a US$250-million (S$356-million) aid package to Southeast Asian allies fearing Chinese domination of the South China Sea.

    The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have competing claims to parts of the sea, while China maintains that a large portion belongs to it.