APEC trade ministers meet on inclusive growth

CHAIRMAN. DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo opens proceedings for the two day APEC trade minister meeting held in Boracay.

BORACAY, Philippines – Trade Ministers from the 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies met in Boracay on May 23 and 24 to discuss issues including expanding trade and spurring economic activity towards strong, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The meeting emphasized opening up cross-border business opportunities for small firms vital to boosting job creation, innovation and productivity within Pacific Rim economies.

Delegated APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) attended the meeting. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Gregory Domingo headed the discussion. 

“Certainly, inequality and poverty are still present and remain the biggest challenges to our economies. But over the past 50 years, trade has [proven] to be a powerful engine of growth. Thus, we need to expand trade and investment and encourage economic dynamism to achieve strong, sustainable and inclusive growth,” he said in his opening speech.

Aside from meeting with their peers, trade ministers also got a briefing from World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo on the state of the multilateral trading system and the Post-Bali work program.

They also received private sector policy guidance from 2015 APEC Business Advisory Council Chair Doris Magsaysay-Ho and representatives of APEC’s Official Observers: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council and Pacific Islands Forum.

APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) issued a statement following its conclusion reflecting the outcomes of the meeting, which describes joint actions APEC members will take in 6 priority areas.

The following are highlights of statement while the full statement can be viewed here.

Supporting the Multilateral Trading System

We will continue to work closely together to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO.

Recognizing that protectionist measures impede this growth, we reaffirm the pledges made by our Leaders against all forms of protectionism.

We reiterate our Leaders’ commitment to a standstill until the end of 2018, and to roll back protectionist and trade-distorting measures.

We welcome the adoption of the Protocol of Amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which has opened the Protocol for acceptance by WTO Members.

We also welcome the decision by WTO Members, which clarifies the interim mechanism agreed by Ministers in Bali, to engage constructively to negotiate and make all concerted efforts to agree and adopt a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes by 31 December 2015.

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General, World Trade Organization.

Enhancing the Regional Economic Integration Agenda

In 2014, we adopted the Beijing Roadmap for APEC’s Contribution to the Realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

We welcome the progress on the Collective Strategic Study on Issues Related to the Realization of the FTAAP (‘Collective Strategic Study’), including the establishment of the Task Force comprising all APEC member economies to undertake the Collective Strategic Study.

We endorse the Terms of Reference of the Collective Strategic Study, acknowledging the importance of this study in providing useful analysis of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

We instruct officials to report on the progress of the Collective Strategic Study by November 2015, with a view to completing the final report, along with any recommendations, by the APEC Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in 2016.

Our discussions on recently concluded Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) / Free trade agreements (FTA) under the APEC Information Sharing Mechanism on RTAs/FTAs served to increase transparency, improve understanding of different ways to build stakeholder support and enhance APEC’s contribution to the eventual realization of the FTAAP.

We welcome the results of the Trade Policy Dialogue held by the Committee on Trade and Investment, which focused on WTO-plus outcomes and approaches of recently concluded FTAs/RTAs as a means of advancing APEC’s contribution to the realization of the FTAAP.

Fostering SMEs’ Participation in Regional and Global Markets

We endorse and agree to recommend to our Leaders the adoption of the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs as an action-oriented initiative that supports APEC’s on-going work to address the barriers faced by MSMEs (Micro and Small to medium enterprise) in international trade and facilitate their access to regional and global markets.

We identified priority areas for cooperation and action on trade facilitation, e-commerce, financing and institutional support to address the barriers faced by MSMEs in international trade and to collectively support direct participation of MSMEs.

- Facilitating access of MSMEs to FTAs/RTAs by simplifying and streamlining rules of origin (ROO) procedural and documentary requirements and harnessing IT to ease documentation and procedures;

- Streamlining customs-related rules and regulations and assist in the compliance of MSMEs;

- Providing timely and accurate information on export and import procedures and requirements;

- Widening the base of Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) and trusted trader programs (TTP) to include SMEs in order for them to contribute to security, integrity and resiliency in supply chains;

- Measures to widen options on financing for MSMEs and further develop the infrastructure to facilitate lending to them;

- Expanding internationalization opportunities for micro and small enterprises providing goods and services through ICT and e-commerce;

- Strengthening institutional support for MSMEs

- Strengthening focus on MSMEs led by women.

We welcome the first meeting of the Technical Group on Measurement of APEC Trade in Value added (TiVA) under Global Value Chains and progress in completing the construction of the APEC TiVA Database by 2018.

Investing in Human Capital Development

We welcome the outcomes of the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Human Capacity Building to promote inclusive growth through quality education and training aligned to industry needs. 

We look forward to the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Science and Technology in Higher Education in July 2015. 

We emphasize the importance of better access to quality education, training and information, including virtual academic mobility through the use of ICT and innovative teaching practices. We will strengthen cross-border education cooperation in APEC, including through enhancing student, researcher and provider mobility.

We welcome the establishment of the APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard as a tool to track progress in reducing barriers in women’s economic participation and inform policy discussions.

We are committed to integrating gender considerations across APEC activities including through cross-fora collaboration such as the “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies” initiative.

Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities

We instruct officials to report by November 2015 on the progress in promoting the APEC Leaders’ Growth Strategy.

The Asia-Pacific region is highly prone to natural disasters, with 70 percent of all natural disasters. Our collaborative efforts to strengthen the resilience and capacity of our region will help us withstand the challenges of natural and man-made disasters and hazards.

We support the ongoing work on resilient supply chains and secure international travel undertaken by the Transportation Working Group (TPTWG), Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) and Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG).

We acknowledge New Zealand and Peru for undertaking the voluntary peer review process for Fossil Fuel Subsidy reform and the Philippines, Vietnam, and Chinese Taipei for volunteering to initiate a peer review.

We welcome the establishment of the Friends of the Chair (FoTC) on Urbanization and the progress in the implementation of the APEC Cooperation Initiative for Jointly Establishing an Asia-Pacific Urbanization Partnership as endorsed by APEC Leaders in 2014.

We welcome the efforts and activities of the CTWG that are intended to strengthen security and resilience in the Asia Pacific region through activities in the four cross-cutting areas of APEC’s Counter Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy: secure supply chains, secure travel, secure finance, and secure infrastructure.

Strengthening Economic and Technical Cooperation 

We agree to establish the FTAAP and Global Value Chain (GVC) sub-fund; innovative development, economic reform and growth sub-fund; and connectivity sub-fund under the APEC Support Fund, and value member economies’ inputs to these sub-funds.

We welcome the report of the Chair of the APEC officials Meeting (SOM) on the progress of APEC-wide efforts since the beginning of the year.  We urge officials to continue their efforts towards meaningful deliverables for Leaders in Manila by November 2015. – Rappler.com