APEC ministers unveil new plan for sustainable, inclusive growth

CEBU CITY, Philippines –  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers have unveiled a new plan that sharpens the region’s focus on reforms to achieve inclusive growth, with an emphasis on supporting services and innovation. 

The APEC officials bared the plan at the conclusion of the 2nd Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) in this city on Tuesday, September 8.

In his remarks at the conclusion of the meeting, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and SRMM chair Arsenio Balisacan said the APEC ministers "note the uncertainty that continues to cloud the global economic scene."

"Although there are signs of recovery, the residual effects of the global financial crisis are still evident in many economies, even as new forms of trade and investment protectionism are on the rise. For this reason, we agreed in our meeting that we need a much stronger focus on promoting economic growth through structural reform," Balisacan said.

Renewed APEC Agenda for structural reform

To advance the work in the next 5 years until 2020, the APEC ministers agreed to endorse a work program embodied in the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform or RAASR.

This work program revolves around 5 themes and strives to stimulate balanced and sustainable growth and reduce inequality.

1. New directions for structural reform in APEC. The ministers agreed on RAASR’s 3 pillars that will serve as guide for concrete reform actions by economies:

2. Structural reform and inclusive growth. The ministers have instructed the APEC economic committee to develop a policy framework on how structural reform, including those initiated by other APEC committees and working groups, can contribute to inclusive growth. This will be accompanied by a set of indicators for evaluating inclusiveness of structural reform policies.

3. Structural reform and innovation: The APEC Economic Policy Report (AEPR) on Structural Reform and Innovation will be recommended for adoption at the main APEC Ministers’ Meeting in November 2015. Its impact will be considered for policies that are needed to address the middle-income trap, and slowing growth potential in other economies.

4. Structural reform and services: Reforming policies relating to the services sector has been elevated  as one of APEC’s main priorities. The economic committee will support the initiatives of the APEC Services Cooperation Framework (ASCF).

5. Tools for structural reform: The ministers agreed to further advance work on good regulatory practices and model legal instruments to improve competition outcomes within APEC economies.

The ministers also agreed to quantitative indicators to measure APEC-wide progress in a report with a mid-term review of RAASR in 2018, and a final review in 2020.

The RAASR (2016-2020) will be finalized for consideration at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in November.

The ministers also endorsed the APEC Ease of Doing Business Action Plan 2016-2018 to APEC Economic Leaders, along with the new aspirational goal of a 10%  improvement by 2018.

The SRMM meeting also played a pivotal role in the formulation of the new Asia-Pacific Services Coalition which the ministers agreed to fully support. (READ: APEC members create coalition to join 'services revolution')

IN ACTION. The SRMM meeting held in Cebu City on September 7-8 and focused on, among other things, how APEC economies can create more participation in the markets for groups such as MSMEs, women, the youth and the elderly.

Continuing process

“Structural reform is not a one-off process. It is an undertaking that requires some period of time to be able to see, yield results. In this respect, inter-agency coordination and a clear set of policies guided by an overarching vision is very important,” said National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director Manuel Esguerra.

APEC Secretariat Executive Director Alan Bollard shared that progress has been made in structural reform since it first became an APEC initiative in 2008, but the need for it is still pressing, particularly to achieve inclusive growth.

Bollard shared that experts at the meeting warned that the potential economic cost to APEC economies of not adopting structural reforms is double that of adopting them, because of losses due to trade and tariff barriers.

“There's a recognition by APEC economic ministers that achieving inclusive growth for every economy is a moving target – you always have to keep on working on these things,” he said. – Rappler.com