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What to watch at Asia’s APEC summit

President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other heads of state will meet in China’s capital Beijing on Nov. 10 and 11 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, or APEC. Here are some of the areas to watch.

Competing trade deals

Trade agreements will be high on the agenda at the conference. China wants a Pacific Rim-wide free-trade zone known as the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific to be in place by 2025, while other member of APEC are focusing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which covers 12 Pacific Rim countries including the United States — but not China. The U.S. agreement is further along, but Washington is still working out terms with Japan.

Watch a report on U.S.-Japan trade discussions during President Obama’s visit to Japan in April.

Another trade agreement on the table is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which does include China, along with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Alan Bollard, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation secretariat executive director, said member nations were working to determine whether the massive trade deals would overlap, according to the South China Morning Post.

China-Japan relations

On the eve of the summit, China and Japan announced in a carefully crafted statement that one of the causes of their recent tensions was the East China Sea islands, but they still wanted to resume talks and keep the situation from escalating.

China and Japan are involved in a territorial dispute over fishing and oil and gas rights around the islands. Their late-breaking agreement marks a thawing of relations between the two countries, which haven’t had a high-level meeting for nearly two years. It also paves the way for President Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet at the summit on Monday or Tuesday.

The meeting in itself will be symbolic of renewed cooperation and might generate an even more concrete statement about de-escalating tensions, said Minxin Pei, director of international and strategic studies and a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California.

Anti-corruption efforts

Chinese officials, who allegedly squirreled away money in foreign bank accounts, prefer to hide in Australia, Canada and the United States — countries that don’t have formal extradition treaties with China, said Pei.

When asked about the extradition issue at a State Department press conference on Thursday, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that without an extradition treaty, the United States handles requests on a case-by-case basis.

China might seek a statement of support at the APEC summit for cooperation in anti-money laundering operations, Pei said.

Over the past decade, APEC has developed anti-corruption initiatives. Its latest is a network of law enforcement authorities called ACT-NET to promote cooperation among agencies fighting corruption, bribery, money laundering and illicit trade.

Climate change

In a call to action at the U.N. Climate Summit in September, President Obama spoke of setting aside “old divides” and urged all nations to do their part to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli followed up by saying China is working on meeting its own targets of reducing carbon emissions by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and will participate in the international climate conference held in Paris in 2015.

But with the Republican gains in U.S. midterm elections, Pei said, “My thought is the Chinese will be very skeptical about anything President Obama says. You will hear some political rhetoric, but no commitment.”

Human rights and a state visit

After the formal APEC summit, President Obama is staying on for a “state visit” — and China is promoting it as such to entice a return invitation, said Pei. “President Xi Jinping is very eager to visit the U.S. This is politically important for him” to show the United States respects him.

During that part of the trip, President Obama might broach other global issues, including China’s assistance in the fight against Ebola in West Africa and lack of involvement in the campaign against Islamic State militants in the Middle East, said Pei.

In addition, President Obama could bring up human rights matters, including China’s arrest of human rights activists and media censorship, Pei said. “If President Obama does not bring up this sensitive topic, he will face quite a bit of criticism at home.”

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