Viet Nam has opened its first meeting of officials from the 21 APEC member economies as incoming chair of the world’s largest regional economic group.
Over the next two days in Ha Noi, APEC Senior Officials will decide their policy priorities for reinvigorating trade and growth in 2017 among their diverse economies, which together account for half of trade and 60 per cent of GDP globally.
“Economic growth of APEC and beyond is strongly hit by weakening commodity prices, global trade and the tightening of monetary and fiscal policies,” said Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh. “The risks that can arise from the advancement of new technologies are increasing and may widen the development of disparity among economies.”
“We need to strengthen inclusive and resilient communities where people and businesses are placed in the center,” he explained to the Asia-Pacific’s trade policy community. “Efforts must be made to improve resilience to economic volatilities and financial shocks, as well as disasters and epidemics.”
They will build on the reaffirmation of support for greater Asia-Pacific trade and investment articulated by APEC Leaders in Lima while taking into account significant changes afoot in the regional landscape.
“There is a clear recognition in APEC of the enduring power of trade to boost job creation and living standards but that some adjustments in approach will be necessary moving forward,” said Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.
“Concerns about fairness and equity provide an opening for APEC to advance globalization 2.0 that is softer, more inclusive and palatable,” he noted. “The focus must be on who’s benefiting and who’s being hurt, and how to communicate and compensate better.”
Senior Officials will consult with representatives from the region’s business community, policy researchers and civil society on ways to address these issues as anti-globalization and protectionist pressures mount.
They will also consider the findings of APEC’s newly concluded two-year collective strategic study on realizing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific as well as the region’s new roadmap on the development of services—its fastest growing sector and biggest source of employment.
This includes emerging opportunities to integrate small businesses into digital trade, among other areas critical to boosting trade and sustainable growth that benefits more of the region’s 3 billion people.
“On the threshold of the digital age, we need to strongly facilitate small and medium-size enterprises by supporting them to enhance their competiveness, innovation and participation in global value chains,” Deputy Prime Minister Minh continued. “In a globalized world of profound change, APEC needs to assume greater responsibility as an incubator and driver for economic growth and integration.”
“With formal, legally binding institutions under strain, APEC’s voluntary, consensus-based approach to policy innovation is well-suited to keep regional efforts to deliver next generation trade and investment going,” Dr Bollard explained.
“Viet Nam exemplifies the uplifting potential of market integration and trade,” he concluded. “As Chair of APEC in 2017, it will play a central role in determining the next steps for economic cooperation and ensuring that it brings the results people all around the region are counting on.”