APEC ministers meet in Japan to reject protectionism ahead of summit

TOKYO — Ministers from member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum on Wednesday started debate on new proposals on trade liberalisation and a new economic growth strategy two days ahead of a landmark summit that brings under one roof heads of states of 21 nations in this Japanese port city.

By Issac John

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Published: Thu 11 Nov 2010, 11:05 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:24 AM

The ministers of APEC, a regional group that accounts for more than 44 per cent of global trade, in their meeting on Wednesday started to deliberate how to support multilateral free trade frameworks and fight trade protectionism amid one of the tighest scurity arrangements in Japan’s second-largest city of Yokohama near Tokyo.

The city has deployed a record-equalling 21,000 police officers, in what amounts to be the nation’s biggest security operation since a G-8 summit in 2008 in northern Japan to avert the threat of terrorist attacks or riots.

The Pacific Rim summit, which will host world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, who is due here tomorrow after his visits to Indonesia and India early this week, is expected to redefine a new growth strategy, including possible pathways to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific region that also accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s population and 54 per cent of world gross demsotic product.

“The growth strategy seeks to achieve a balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure economic growth,” a communique said.

The minsterial meeting ahead of of the summit discussions also is discussing structural reforms and the Doha round of global trade talks.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, in his opening remarks at the ministerial meeting, said that the world is on the path to economic recovery and APEC member economies have contributed to the recovery of the world economy.

He said APEC member countries needed to embrace changes and translate them into actions in order to adapt to new circumstances as the world economy is undergoing structural reform.

Wednesday’s deliberations also focused on the need to seek new numerical goals to further facilitate trade as a prelude to the leaders’ summit over the weekend.

“These efforts by APEC will greatly contribute to the world’s economic growth and I would like to discuss them frankly with you all today [Wednesday],” said Maehara.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is among ministers absent from the discussions and represented by proxies.

Maehara said that he would like to discuss protectionism and the need to seek an early conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade liberalisation talks to promote free trade and ensure the world’s economic recovery following the 2008 global financial crisis.

The regional group is committed to the Bogor Goals set in 1994 of realising free and open trade and investment in the region, which are a key to enhancing growth and prosperity. An assessment of member economies’ progress towards these goals has been undertaken and will be presented at the summit.

According to Bogor Goals, the industrialised economies should achieve the goal no later than the year 2010 and developing economies no later than the year 2020. The five developed economies — the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand — are subject to assessment at the Yokohama summit. Eight developing economies, including South Korea, Singapore and China’s Hong Kong, volunteered to participate in the assessment this year.

World Trade Organisation Director General Pascal Lamy attended the meeting to update the ministers on the dormant trade talks which have missed deadline after deadline since their launch in 2001, due chiefly to gaps between advanced and major developing economies. APEC Secretariat Executive Director, Ambassador Muhamad Noor, said on Tuesday that the regional group was working hard to foster closer cooperation and integration in the Asia-Pacific region so that growth and prosperity is shared by future generations.

Speaking at an APEC youth forum in the city, he said the regional bloc is focused on three broad areas to boost economic growth across the region; trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation; making it easier and cheaper to do business in the region; and increasing economic and technical cooperation between members. He said the average applied tariffs have reduced from 16.9 per cent in 1989 to 6.6 per cent in 2008.

“Thanks in part to its ongoing work on trade liberalisation, theere is a 61 per cent reduction in tariffs in the Asia-Pacific region since 1989, when APEC was formed,” he said.

APEC’s activities have also contributed to a six-fold increase in APEC members’ total trade in the same period. And, as a result, GDP per capita in the region has increased 47 per cent, Noor said.

“APEC’s new vision points to a broadening of the group’s agenda, from trade and investment liberalisation, towards broader social and environmental objectives.”


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