China and the United States have reached a breakthrough on eliminating duties on information technology products at the APEC summit in Beijing. As David Pollard reports, a deal could pave the way for the first major tariff-cutting agreement at the World Trade Organisation in 17 years.
It began with a bang. A fireworks spectacular and stage show for twenty-one Asian-Pacific leaders gathered in Beijing - whose countries between them account for over half the world's economic output. Hopes were high the talks would speed progress towards a free-trade zone. China's president says they did produce an agreement of a new China-led trade framework. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING SAYING: "It symbolises the start of the process of setting up the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area ... It is a historic decision." There were few fireworks between Presidents Obama and Putin. It's become diplomatic sport to watch the body language between the two. This time, said to be particularly frosty during a short meeting. Sensitive issues - like Ukraine - reportedly avoided. Separately, Putin offered Russian chivalry - and a shawl - to the Chinese president's wife. It was quickly replaced with her normal black coat. But this awkward handshake and talks that followed between the Chinese president and Japan's Prime Minister was greeted as a diplomatic breakthrough. Potentially easing tensions between the two over disputed islands in the East China Sea. As for Obama: the US and China agreed to remove some tariffs on high-tech goods. He also announced an easing of visa restrictions between the two countries. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "The United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China. I want to repeat that." The US has been pushing its own plan to rival China's for free trade in the region - the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which China is not a party. And has warned it will take a tough line with China on other issues: notably cybersecurity. But the tariff agreement could pave the way for a broader removal of bilateral tariffs under the World Trade Organisation. Robert Parker, Senior Advisor, Credit Suisse. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT PARKER, SENIOR ADVISOR, CREDIT SUISSE: ''Clearly a lot of background work has gone into trade agreements between the US and Asia and most notably between the US and China. I do hope progress is made here. This would be, I think, a strong positive for growth in trade across the Pacific.'' The obligatory 'family photo' was also on the agenda. As was tree planting. A time for APEC leaders to demonstrate their gardening skills - and show how keen they are to spur new growth.