Free and open trade and investment remained a top priority for APEC in 2006. Member economies continued to meet the challenge of sustaining economic development through open and transparent markets. We remained committed to economic reform which has transformed our economies by boosting productivity and growth. And our community continued to integrate as we worked together to address human security concerns.
Under the theme "Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity," APEC, chaired by Viet Nam in 2006, produced significant outcomes to enhance trade and investment liberalization, strengthen economic and technical cooperation and ensure human security. APEC reaffirmed its determination to take necessary and timely actions to enhance counter-terrorism activities, secure energy supply, protect against health threats and prepare for emergencies as encompassed in the Ha Noi Action Plan.
Building on the five-year target set in Shanghai in 2001 to reduce trade transaction costs by 5%, APEC member economies have targeted a further 5% reduction by 2010. Equipped with a comprehensive plan developed by the Committee on Trade and Investment, APEC's new trade facilitation framework, which was welcomed by Leaders this year, will help APEC achieve a further five-percent reduction by 2010.
APEC affirmed its commitment to the multilateral trading system and urged negotiators to move beyond their current positions to achieve a balanced and ambitious outcome despite the stalled DDA negotiations in Geneva at the World Trade Organization. APEC member economies implemented 121 technical assistance projects, the majority of which focused on developing human capital and strengthening economic infrastructure.
Given the focus on reform this year, APEC reflected on its effectiveness and determined better ways to streamline and strengthen its processes, to ensure greater responsiveness to Leaders' and Ministers' priorities. Under the guidance of the Senior Officials' Committee on Economic and Technical Assistance (SCE) a thorough self-assessment of working groups occurred. This resulted in increasing efficiency for economic and technical cooperation (ECOTECH). These reforms will be further enhanced by organizational changes and an expanded financial base, including contributions to the APEC Support Fund by Australia, China, Korea, Chinese Taipei and the United States.
As tariffs have declined throughout the APEC region, attention has gradually shifted to behind-the-border barriers that inhibit cross-border trade and investment. In 2006, the Economic Committee shifted its focus to a structural reform agenda which consists of improvements to institutional frameworks, regulations and government policies so that the efficient functioning of markets is supported and behind-the-border barriers are reduced.
APEC, chaired by Australia in 2007, will pursue objectives that seek to achieve an ambitious and balanced conclusion to world trade negotiations, encourage substantial economic reform, address the twin challenges of energy security and sustainable development, combat terrorism and strengthen APEC with meaningful reforms.
Returning to the venue of the first meeting in 1989, APEC 2007 in Australia reminds us that the Asia-Pacific region is growing ever closer, linked by the networks of trade, investment and business, strong people-to-people ties and a common vision for growth and prosperity. APEC is ready to seize the challenge by forging these strong economic bonds.
We will continue to strengthen our community and build a sustainable future.
This article was written by Ambassador Colin Heseltine, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat for 2007, and Ambassador Tran Trong Toan who recently completed his service as Executive Director for the APEC Secretariat in 2006.