China's President Xi Jinping calls for new type of Asia-Pacific partnership in the region

China's President Xi Jinping speaking to open the Apec CEO Summit at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member Apec g
China's President Xi Jinping speaking to open the Apec CEO Summit at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member Apec grouping are meeting in Beijing from Nov 7 to Nov 11. -- PHOTO: AFP 

CHINESE President Xi Jinping has called for a new type of Asia-Pacific partnership among countries in the world's fastest-growing region so as to harness unprecedented opportunities and also to tackle growing challenges.

In his 30-minute speech at the Apec CEO summit on Sunday morning, Mr Xi said the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for 40 per cent of global population, 57 per cent of world economy and 48 per cent of total trade, has entered a new developmental phase.

"Flow of investments, information and people are at a high level. All sorts of regional cooperation are progressing well and new ideas are emerging. The Asia-Pacific's global stature is on the rise," he added at the event.

But the region also faces challenges, with economic recoveries still fragile and suffering the lingering effects of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Also, he said an emerging plethora of regional free trade arrangements have caused dilemmas among some in having to choose which ones to back.

It was a veiled reference to a key talking point over China's push for the Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which has reportedly run into resistance from the United States over fears that it might distract focus on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the latter is championing.

"The Asia-Pacific's future is now at a critical junction," Mr Xi told leaders and delegates in an event held on the sidelines of the annual summit of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) grouping.

"Is it going to lead the world in creating a better future or is it going to slow down and be overtaken by others? Is it going to deepen the regional integration process or is it going to descend into a vicious cycle of disintegration? Is it going to maintain an open attitude or is it going to be stuck in the past even though we have already entered the 21st century?"

What the region needs, Mr Xi pointed out, is an Asia-Pacific partnership that is based on mutual trust, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation.

"We should move away from a winner-takes-all mindset to one based on win-win cooperation to enlarge the Asia-Pacific cake and ensure its prosperity," he added, as he stressed the need to scale new heights for regional economic integration and to start the FTAAP process to ensure the region remains internally and to the world.

  In his speech, Mr Xi also stressed China's commitment to maintaining friendly relations with its neighbours and outlined its latest contributions to deepening regional economic integration, especially in financing infrastructure construction.

These included a US$40 billion (S$51.6 billion) Silk Road infrastructure fund that he launched on Saturday on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Beijing, and the US$100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) launched last month.

Another key focus of the Apec summit is whether Mr Xi and Japan Premier Shinzo Abe would hold their first formal meeting since taking power in late 2012, after ties were roiled by disputes over islands and war historical accounts.

Mr Xi also outlined how the Chinese economy has entered a "new normal" of slower but more balanced and sustainable growth, as it presses on with economic restructuring efforts to be more driven by domestic demand and less by investments.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg