Accelerating regional economic integration (REI) has been one of the key priorities for APEC since 2007 and this work is advanced mainly by Senior Officials, the CTI and its sub-groups. Two Trade Policy Dialogues (TPD) on a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) were held in 2009 to help members better understand the economic benefits and technical and policy implications of the establishment of an FTAAP. The trade policy dialogues covered: possible pathways to an FTAAP (for example, by docking and merging FTAs/RTAs based on APEC studies of the levels of convergence and divergence in FTAs between members); the "next generation" trade and investment issues that should go into a 21st century trade agreement; and the suggestion from the APEC Business Advisory Council that Senior Officials should start work on a timeline.
In response to Leaders and Ministers instructions in 2009 to intensify work on initiatives to promote greater convergences among economies in key areas of APEC’s REI agenda, a trade policy dialogue was held in May 2010 on investment and standards/technical barriers to trade (TBT). This trade policy dialogue contributed to the development of the Road Map on Investment through discussion of (i) the core elements in the work undertaken by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and (ii) findings of the Convergences/Divergences Study as possible contributions to the development of the APEC Investment Principles. The discussion on standards/technical barriers to trade was aimed at raising awareness of the gamut of methods in which overcoming Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) could be facilitated. The need for better alignment of standards and increased understanding through regulator collaboration was emphasized.
In 2009, Korea led a study on the economic impact of a possible Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and identified specific benefits and challenges for APEC economies. To take forward the results of this study, the CTI endorsed a proposal on “Capacity Building Needs for Strengthening REI” which sought to conduct a survey primarily targeted at helping developing member economies identify their capacity building needs, including upgrading of negotiation skills, for establishing larger-scale FTAs/RTAs. Taking the outcomes of the survey analysis into consideration, the report recommended the development of detailed action plans and implementation of a tailor-made program for capacity-building in possibly cooperation with relevant international organizations, such as OECD, IDB, UNCTAD, ESCAP, WTO, and ADB to facilitate work process and maximize the effects. Consideration of these recommendations, including the development of an action plan, will be taken up by the CTI in 2011.
In 2010, APEC Leaders reaffirmed their commitment at their Yokohama meeting to pursue stronger and deeper Regional Economic Integration by addressing barriers to trade and investment and by taking concrete steps toward realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). Leaders also agreed that “APEC will make an important and meaningful contribution as an incubator of an FTAAP by providing leadership and intellectual input into the process of its development, and by playing a critical role in defining, shaping, and addressing the ‘next generation’ trade and investment issues that FTAAP should contain” and that “APEC should contribute to the pursuit of an FTAAP by continuing and further developing its work on sectoral initiatives in such areas as investment; services; e-commerce; rules of origin; standards and conformance; trade facilitation; and environmental goods and services”.
In 2011, three “next generation trade and investment issues” were identified: (i) facilitating global supply chains; (ii) enhancing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) participation in global production chains; and (iii) promoting effective, non-discriminatory, and market-driven innovation policy. APEC Leaders agreed to advance a set of policies to promote effective, non-discriminatory, and market-driven innovation policy to set a model for innovation in the region as the best path toward fostering innovations that will increase productivity and ensure economic growth. They also decided on areas of cooperation that could be included in trade agreements to enhance the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in global production chains.
In 2012, APEC Leaders remained committed to addressing next generation trade and investment issues to further integrate APEC economies and expand trade throughout the region. They welcome addressing transparency as a new next generation trade and investment issue, and the endorsement of the APEC Model Chapter on Transparency for RTAs/FTAs to be used as a guide by APEC economies.