APEC 2007, hosted by Australia, was characterised by a growing recognition that economies that pursue structural reforms to address domestic or behind-the-border impediments to growth are more resilient to economic shocks, achieve greater macroeconomic stability, and experience increased productivity and higher living standards over time. These structural reforms refer to measures to improve market efficiency, such as improvements to regulatory systems, competition frameworks and governance structures.
In addition to the growing recognition of the importance of structural reform to APEC's economic agenda, the 2007 APEC year was also characterised by the agreement to some very important, and concrete steps to continue to progress APEC's structural reform agenda many of which will be implemented over the course of 2008.
APEC Leaders at the Sydney meetings last year welcomed the efforts to intensify work on the Leaders' Agenda to Implement Structural Reform (LAISR) which include the areas of regulatory reform, competition policy, public sector governance, corporate governance, and strengthening economic and legal infrastructure. As part of this effort, Leaders agreed to the first ever ministerial level meeting on structural reform in August 2008, which will be hosted by Australia. The meeting will promote information sharing and dialogue amongst ministers on structural reform priorities in the region. This is a crucial development and will work to promote discussion on improved structural policies in the Asia-Pacific region and strongly complement APEC's traditional ministerial engagements to promote improved trade and investment opportunities and linkages.
In the lead up to the ministerial meeting on structural reform, there will be a major Senior Officials' (SOM) Policy Dialogue on Structural Reform in February. This policy dialogue will bring together experts, business people and policy officials from around the region and promote dialogue on the key elements of structural reform and identify concrete steps for enhancing structural policies in APEC economies. The outcomes of this meeting will lay the groundwork for the ministerial level meeting on structural reform.
Last year APEC Ministers also endorsed a detailed and ambitious multi-year work program for the Economic Committee to implement the Leaders' Agenda to Implement Structural Reform. This work program will guide the activities of the Economic Committee until 2010. In 2008, the Economic Committee will undertake a number of initiatives including developing good practice guidance material on regulatory reform, holding workshops on e-governance and government performance and results management, and a seminar on best practices in regulation and the promotion of efficiency in transport infrastructure facilities. The Economic Committee will also produce its annual publication to APEC Leaders, the APEC Economic Policy Report, which is focused on sharing information and raising awareness about the LAISR priority areas. In 2007 the report focused on the theme of public sector governance. This year the report will focus on competition policy.
A major development in 2007 was the agreement to align APEC fora involved in promoting structural policy reform. Now, the Competition Policy and Deregulation Group (CPDG) and the Strengthening Economic and Legal Infrastructure Group (SELI) will fall under the umbrella of the Economic Committee. A key challenge for the Economic Committee in 2008 will be to implement this new structure and continue to promote high quality and consistent engagements with other APEC fora, the business community, multilateral organizations and academics with an interest in structural policy reform.
The theme for APEC Peru 2008 - "A New Commitment to the Development of the Asia Pacific" - provides an excellent platform for the Economic Committee to make progress on its multi-year work program to promote improved structural policies. The Economic Committee has made great progress so far and has a challenging year ahead - but with the concerted input of APEC economies, the forum can make real progress!
Written by Professor Bob Buckle who is the Chair of the APEC Economic Committee. The Committee is charged with the responsibility for leading and coordinating APEC's structural reform work program. Professor Buckle is also a Principal Advisor of the New Zealand Treasury and an Adjunct Professor of Economics at Victoria University of Wellington.