APEC ministers push new free trade pact

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Ministers from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies are jointly pushing for the implementation of a free and open trade in the Asia Pacific along with the pursuit of quality growth in each member state following the conclusion of 2015 Ministerial Meeting yesterday.

In a press conference, 2015 APEC Ministerial Meeting co-chairs Alberto del Rosario and Gregory Domingo detailed the actions the ministers have come up with to advance the Asia-Pacific economic growth agenda.

Del Rosario and Domingo said among the top priorities seen needed for the region’s progress is the Free Trade Area for the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

“There were a lot of interventions about the FTAAP, basically that they like to see the work continue on study for FTAAP. There is a target that the submission of a comprehensive study and accompanying recommendations by the end of 2016. So that seems to be ongoing because there is a task force and a core drafting group that has been formed,” Domingo said.

“There were some discussions by the ministers on how FTAAP relates to other trade agreements and there were a number of comments that all these other trade agreements that are proliferating are all building blocks that are actually good even to the multilateral trading system which is the World Trade Organization (WTO). Because by having more of these bilateral, regional and unilateral type of agreements, we actually advance the position of free trade regimes which make it easier to conclude at the bigger group such as the FTAAP and eventually, the WTO,” Domingo added.

In a joint statement, the APEC ministers commended the progress in the implementation of the FTAAP and welcomed its progress.

The ministers are now looking forward to the senior officials’ submission of a comprehensive study and accompanying recommendations by the end of next year.

“In the region, we reaffirm our belief contained in the pathways to FTAAP that an FTAAP should be pursued as a comprehensive free trade agreement by developing and building on ongoing regional undertakings,” the joint statement said.

Aside from addressing trade barriers in the region, Domingo said the APEC ministers have also come up with a strategy for strengthening the quality of growth for each member economies.

Quality growth, according to Domingo, is progress that is is sustainable, environment friendly, resilient, puts particular emphasis on providing economic growth to the rural areas,  provides opportunity to youth and equal opportunity to women, and opens doors for micro, small and medium enterprises to participate in the global trade.

“APEC 2015 adopted the theme of Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World. This theme stems from the idea that APEC’s pursuit for free and open trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region should empower and provide tangible benefits both developed and developing economies,” Domingo said.

“Today, we cannot simply depend on the growth as usual paradigm. We need to pay attention to the quality of economic growth that goes beyond simply identifying and addressing trade barriers. We need to focus on a wider landscape of economic, social and environmental context. Achieving reform in improving the quality of growth will certainly generate synergies that will lead to strong and sustained economic growth,” he added.












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