Senior Officials from the 21 APEC member economies, the world’s largest regional economic cooperation group, have commenced work towards freer Asia-Pacific trade that secures the advantages of globalization while safeguarding the welfare of people hurt by it in the past.
Convening for the first time in 2017 in Nha Trang and guided by Viet Nam as APEC Chair, Senior Officials are developing trade and economic policy that all corners of society can embrace and benefit from across APEC—whose member economies circle the Pacific Rim and account for 3 billion people, half of global trade and 60 per cent of world GDP.
Emphasis is on providing new direction for regional economic integration and promoting sustainability in APEC; greater support for workers and small business participation in trade; and enhanced food security and agricultural sustainability in an era of climate change. It builds on the technical groundwork laid here by trade and sectoral officials over the preceding 12 days.
“We are at the start at what promises to be a difficult year,” acknowledged Viet Nam Permanent Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, 2017 Chair of APEC Senior Officials. “Despite some positive predictions, global and regional economic growth remains slow. Global trade is weak. And investment is subdued. There are many uncertainties.”
“In some corners, we are hearing concerns that the benefits of globalization are not evenly distributed. New disruptive technologies, if not properly harnessed, run the risk of widening development disparity among economies,” added Permanent Deputy Minister Son. “APEC has all the resources and potential as well as capabilities to overcome these challenges, and turn them into impetus for further growth and development.
“As a grouping of dynamic economies, our region can and will continue to move ahead on the path of development and prosperity,” he declared.
Senior Officials are detailing measures to make it 10 per cent easier to do business in APEC by 2018—enabling greater entrepreneurship and trade among resource-constrained small and medium enterprises that account for over 97 per cent of all businesses and half of all jobs across APEC economies but less than 35 per cent of their exports. Improving the time it takes to open a business, get permits and trade across borders are some focus areas.
Parallel initiatives are being fleshed out to widen access to financing and the internet to spur startup growth, promote digital skills training to meet employer demand and lift employment, and drive regulatory reform to boost trade in services. The aim is to bolster sectors ranging from e-commerce and education, to health, to travel and tourism that support millions of jobs.
The development of actions to securely reduce administrative bottlenecks at borders and make it easier and less costly to move goods across borders is a further point of attention. Addressing non-tariff measures, including in the agriculture and food industry, and strengthening technical capacity for new, more equitable trade agreements is another.
“We are working to promote the inclusiveness of APEC—to ensure that growth, globalization and free and open trade and investment that APEC is a champion in will be beneficial to all people and won’t leave anyone behind,” said Deputy Minister Son. “What I hope to take away from this first Senior Officials’ meeting is a strong message reaffirming APEC’s essential role as the premiere economic forum that is working for the people and businesses,” he concluded.
The First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting will close on Friday. It will be followed by a press conference with Deputy Minister Son to discuss the outcomes and road ahead.