APEC officials and the Asia-Pacific business community are intensifying their policy consultations to sustain a fragile recovery in trade growth by confronting legitimate concerns about fairness that threaten to undermine it.
Delegates from the region’s public and private sectors exchanged views on potential paths forward during a meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council this week in Toronto. Focus is on instituting measures for delivering more free and equitable trade as well as supporting workers displaced by market competition, automation and changing employer needs.
It sets the stage for policy work to address these priorities to be taken forward by trade and sectoral officials from the 21 APEC member economies in Ho Chi Minh City in August. Recommendations from the APEC Business Advisory Council will subsequently inform APEC trade and sectoral minister-level policy meetings in Korea, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam.
“APEC, as a region, is a valuable partner for growth and holds tremendous opportunity for Canadians seeking new and burgeoning markets for their products and to ensure their future prosperity," said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, underscoring the urgency of empowering people across economies to take advantage.
“Everybody around the APEC table recognizes we need to do more to ease public concerns about who benefits from trade,” added Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. “Protectionist pressures aren’t going to suddenly go away. Opening up economic opportunities made possible by free trade is key. We are ramping up our engagement with business stakeholders to help move globalization in a direction that reflects these realities.”
This includes exchanges of policy guidance and expertise to address barriers to improved trade agreements, market connectivity, digital innovation and small business participation in the production and supply chains of emerging services sectors—ranging from e-commerce and app development to logistics, travel and tourism.
“The success of micro, small and medium sized enterprises is vital to the Canadian economy and our ability to build on our strong foundations in the Asia Pacific,” noted Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of International Trade, who also pointed to the need to go further to cultivate productive, resilient and inclusive workforces.
Dialogue between APEC and the private sector is centered on reconciling employers’ evolving manpower and skills requirements, and worker training, retraining and social safety nets—with an emphasis on boosting labor compatibility and growth potential unhindered by age and gender lines.
“The needs of businesses in Canada and all across the Asia-Pacific are changing rapidly as new market dynamics and technologies alter the economic landscape but still ultimately come down to people,” said Suzanne Benoit, President of Quebec’s aerospace hub Aéro Montréal and APEC Business Advisory Council representative for Canada.
“No single government or industry has the capacity to transform economies and employment prospects in today’s inextricably interconnected world,” Benoit continued. “Only by working together can tangible progress be achieved towards trade and growth that is truly progressive and sustainable. Public-private coordination underway in APEC offers cause for greater optimism.”