Apec agrees on free trade bloc

TOKYO — Foreign and economic ministers from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or Apec, countries meeting in Yokohama agreed on Thursday to refrain from introducing new trade and investment barriers until 2013 and pledged to take firm steps towards creating a region-wide free trade area.

By Issac John

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Published: Fri 12 Nov 2010, 11:45 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:25 AM

In an official statement issued following the conclusion of the 22nd Apec Ministerial Meeting, to be forwarded to the leaders before this weekend’s summit, the ministers from the 21-member group warned that the global economy could slide back into recession and expressed their strong commitment to expanding multilateral trading systems in the Pacific-rim region.

A specific date was not given for the formation of the free Trade Area although the year 2020 was suggested during discussions, but a majority of the participants opposed setting a specific target.

Stressing the need for a broader multilateral trade system, the statement indicated the members’ readiness to help speed up the conclusion of the stalled Doha round of trade liberalisation talks.

The agreement on not imposing new export restrictions or take other protectionist steps through 2013, extends the period agreed upon during the 2008 summit by three years.

“In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the global economic recovery remains weak. We believe it is time for us to share a growth strategy to sustain recovery and to lay the foundation for our future prosperity. Apec, as the world’s leading growth center, is in a unique position to carry out such a task. In doing so, we will work together with other relevant international fora, including the G20. We will also work with Asean,” the joint statement said. “We discussed the draft growth strategy submitted by senior officials and welcomed its aims to achieve balanced growth across and within our economies,” it said.

The ministers also agreed on inclusive growth to ensure the opportunity for all citizens to participate, contribute to and benefit fromeconomic growth

The ministers maintained that the Apec region had been leading global economic growth in spite of the crisis and has actively contributed to overcoming it. “The Apec region will continue to increase its importance in the global economy as a growth center. However, the crisis has yet to end. We are now facing challenges, in particular, of addressing volatility, creating employment and reconsolidating finance, and continuing to keep a balance between recovery and the exit strategies of fiscal and monetary policies,” the statement said.

The anti-protectionist stance taken by the leaders is seen as vital to achieving sustainable growth and economic development in the region. While protectionist pressures in the future may occur, the leaders also expressed their strong commitment to multilateral trading and to bringing the Doha Development Agenda, or DDA, to a prompt and successful conclusion.

“Recognising that the prompt conclusion of DDA will benefit all WTO members, especially developing members, we reaffirmed that all WTO members should work together, with a sense of collective responsibility, to advance the DDA negotiations,” the statement said.

The ministers added that they sought to achieve a “balanced and ambitious conclusion to the negotiations as promptly as possible, consistent with the Doha mandate, built on the progress achieved, including with regard to modalities.”

In addition, the basic principles of the WTO were lauded and the need for ongoing transparency and predictability by member economies, when it comes to measures that could have a bearing on trade and investment, were also emphasised.


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