by Chris Dalby
LIMA, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- With the future of the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) dims under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, the alternative Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) occupied the center stage at the weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in Peru.
The 16-member RCEP, composed of the 10 member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India, missed its negotiation deadline last year, but with the uncertainty of TPP, RCEP has regained attention at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.
Analysts believe that RCEP will become the main path toward the final realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
In his keynote address to the APEC CEO Summit on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping referred to building the FTAAP as "a strategic initiative critical for the long-term prosperity of the Asia-Pacific."
"We should firmly pursue the FTAAP as an institutional mechanism for ensuring an open economy in the Asia-Pacific," said Xi.
"We must energize trade and investment to drive growth, make free trade arrangements more open and inclusive and uphold the multilateral trading regime," the Chinese president said.
Xi's proposal was echoed by other APEC leaders, as they reaffirmed their commitment that " the FTAAP should be built upon ongoing regional undertakings, and through possible pathways including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership."
"We reiterate our commitment to the eventual realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific as a major instrument to further deepen APEC's regional economic integration agenda," reads the declaration after the Economic Leaders' Meeting.
APEC foreign and commerce ministers' meeting and the Business Advisory Council also urged efforts to speed up the process toward the eventual realization of the FTAAP.
The TPP championed by U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to be dumped by President-elect Trump, who has called it a "disaster" during his campaign trail.
Obama last week abandoned his efforts to seek Congressional approval of the TPP, saying he will leave the fate of the deal to Trump and Republican lawmakers.
Trump has also repeatedly called NAFTA, signed in 1994 between the three North American countries, a bad deal.