Trade and sectoral officials from the 21 APEC member economies are convening in the bustling coastal town of Nha Trang to lay the groundwork for a refashioning of globalization in the Asia-Pacific. The goal is to establish policy conditions that enable more equitable trade and growth across the region.
Over the next 10 days, officials, guided by APEC 2017 Chair Viet Nam, will develop new actions to open up economic opportunities and better position people and businesses to take advantage in a world of increasing automation, competition and market change—ranging from shifts in consumption patterns to evolving skills and labor force needs.
The proceedings will culminate with the first meeting of APEC Senior Officials in 2017 on 2-3 March to decide the next steps for building inclusive economies; regional economic integration and connectivity; small business participation in trade; and food security and sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change. They will consider recommendations from the year’s first APEC Business Advisory Council meeting underway concurrently this week in Bangkok.
“All of us recognize that the benefits of globalization and trade are not evenly distributed and that more must be done to support those frustrated by this disparity and hungry for realignment,” explained APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Alan Bollard. “We want to keep the favorable aspects of greater interconnectivity and ensure that more people are better off because of it.”
For emerging economies such as Viet Nam, the reduction of poverty that has moved hundreds of millions of people into the middle class is at stake. For developed economies on both sides of the Pacific, greater opportunities to sell their goods and services to these markets – as well as job-creating investment inflows – hang in the balance.
Officials will seek common ground in addressing rising anti-globalization, protectionism and trade restrictive measures, bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and other mechanisms for achieving fairer trade and growth.
Boosting labor and social protection, startup growth, job creating services sector development and trade opportunities for farmers is a particular focus. Improving access and use of the internet and digital innovation to help small businesses tap into cross-border production and supply chains is another.
“Progress in facilitating digital trade has made it possible for small firms around the region to better manage their operations and seek out clients—whether you’re talking about a family-owned car tire business in Ha Noi, alpaca product producers in the Peruvian Andes or auto parts suppliers in Michigan and Ohio that employ thousands of local workers,” noted Dr Bollard.
“The door can still be widened for groups who have been left behind by globalization in the past,” he concluded. “We are actively working to sustain this momentum in APEC, realizing that a reversal could risk slamming the door shut for all of us in the region and beyond.”