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US and China strike visa deal at APEC, improve partnership

, November 10, 2014, 0 Comments

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The world’s two largest economies have agreed to grant visas to each other’s citizens valid for up to a decade. US President Obama has told leaders at the APEC summit the deal aims to strengthen business ties with China.

United States President Barack Obama began his week-long visit to Asia on Monday by announcing the visa deal at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing. Obama told business leaders he wanted China “to do well,” saying that “one country’s prosperity doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.”

Beijing and Washington have both sought to expand their influence over economic policy and trade in Asia and the Pacific, a reality that has created a simmering distrust between the two powers in recent years.

The US president said he welcomed “the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China,” adding that the visa agreement aimed to improve trade and business ties, and make it easier for Chinese investors to get involved in US projects.

“We compete for business, but we also seek to cooperate on a broad range of challenges and shared opportunities,” Obama said.

The deal applies to both countries’ citizens, and allows student visas to be extended to five years, and for business and tourist visas to be valid for up to a decade. Such visas currently expire after one year.

Obama told the APEC gathering that the 1.8 million Chinese who visited the US in 2013 contributed $21 billion (16.8 billion euros) to the economy, supporting more than 100,000 jobs.

“This agreement could help us more than quadruple those numbers,” he said, describing it as an “important breakthrough which will benefit our economies, bring our people together.”

Obama is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later at the summit, when he is expected to raise a series of less comfortable issues, such as human rights, cyber security, currency manipulation and environmental standards.

Leaders from APEC’s 21 member countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, are also attending the two-day forum.

Two trade pacts

At the summit, Obama is also hoping to make progress with a long-delayed regional trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which does not include China. At the US embassy in Beijing on Monday, Obama held discussions with leaders from the 11 other countries involved in the TPP, which has been promoted as part of Washington’s strategic pivot to Asia.

“We’re going to keep on working to get it done,” Obama said, calling the pact “the model for trade in the 21st century.”

China, which last hosted APEC in 2001, is promoting its own free trade initiative for the region. The Free-Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) is a major item on the summit’s agenda, and is seen by analysts as an attempt by Beijing to counter US domination of global trade.

In a speech on Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country had a “responsibility to create and realize an Asia-Pacific dream for the people of the region” and that China’s rise could “hold lasting and infinite promise.”