NEW YORK, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an "indispensable economic forum" for the Asia-Pacific, the world's powerhouse for economic growth amid rising protectionism in the West, said a renowned U.S. scholar.
"APEC does not get the credit that it deserves but it is an indispensable economic forum for the Asia-Pacific. Especially at a time when the ugly head of protectionism has reared itself," Sourabh Gupta, resident senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
APEC provides a "common umbrella" under which parties can "gather and move ahead on the basis of consensus" as rival trade liberalization initiatives are under discussion or re-negotiation in the Asia-Pacific and trans-Pacific region, he said.
"If a future Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is to formally take shape, APEC is the platform where such liberalization discussions will be initiated," he said.
By encompassing all 21 APEC economies through trade liberalization, the FTAAP, once established, will become the world's largest free trade zone, covering 57 percent of the global economy and nearly half of world trade.
"Even if the momentum on FTAAP flags in the near-term due to the U.S.reluctance, APEC still can play a valuable role in setting high standards and best-practices in a number of new areas of cross-border commerce, such as digital trade," Gupta noted.
The vision to build FTAAP, proposed at the APEC meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2006, was translated into reality at the 2014 APEC meetings in Beijing with the endorsement of a roadmap. The FTAAP was finally approved at the APEC meetings in Lima in 2016.
"This is what APEC excels at -- creating 'pathfinder' groups among its membership that draw up best practices in a number of cross-border and 'beyond-the-border' areas of commerce, such as the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules system, which are then endorsed by the full membership," he added.
A report from the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council has estimated that the FTAAP, when realized, will add 2.4 trillion U.S. dollars to the global economy.
The 25th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will take place in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang on Nov. 10 and 11.