Business is always a key stakeholder in the APEC process, but in 2009, APEC is giving priority to businesses' needs.
is not a talk shop and APEC is not just the 21 leaders dressing up in
funny costumes at the end of the year. We actually do a lot of work. Now
we are trying to make sure there's a lot more relevance to the business
community," says Mary Elizabeth Chelliah, Chair of APEC's Committee on
Trade and Investment (CTI).
Cognisant of the need to deal with
the immediate crisis, but also to lay the foundations for continued and
sustainable growth, APEC is addressing the short- and the long-term and
is tackling both sides of the ledger: working to stimulate trade and
investment and to reduce businesses' transaction costs. Stemming protectionism, supporting Doha
has come a long way in terms of reducing barriers to trade and the
benefits to the region have been immense, so it does not want to take a
That's why APEC Leaders committed to a 12 month standstill on protectionist measures in Lima last November.
then domestic calls for protection have grown even louder as the crisis
has become more intense, and as a result some slippage has occurred.
To tackle the issue APEC is now working closely with the WTO Secretariat
to develop a monitoring mechanism that detects and highlights the
measures introduced by members that could be considered trade
restrictive or distorting.
"[It will be] an exercise in
transparency, so that everyone at the table can see for themselves what
is being done and through a process of peer pressure and moral
persuasion we hope to put a check on these (protectionist) pressures,"
explains Ravi Menon, APEC 2009 Senior Officials' Meeting Chair.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will be attending the Meeting of APEC
Ministers Responsible for Trade in Singapore in July, to brief Ministers
on the WTO's efforts against protectionism and to discuss how APEC can
APEC also believes that the best defence against
protectionism is to be on the offence and will therefore be pushing for
progress on the Doha Development Agenda. Mr Lamy's presence in July will
undoubtedly ensure that this issue is paid a lot of attention. Stimulating trade and investment, reducing costs
with the immediate trade implications of the crisis is a priority for
APEC, and members will use the opportunity of the upcoming meetings to
share information on trade finance issues and stimulus measure
At the same time however APEC is pressing ahead with its core liberalisation and facilitation agenda. 1. At-the-border:
2009 APEC will keep members focused on the Bogor Goals of free and open
trade - this means further work to reduce tariffs, non-tariff barriers
and other restrictions to trade and investment. A particular area of
focus will be simplifying Rules of Origin so that businesses can take
advantage of the 42 free trade agreements (FTAs) that already exist
between APEC members.
APEC will also continue to examine options
for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an initiative of the
APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). A study has already been done of
30 FTAs that exist between members to see where they converge and
diverge. Further analysis is now being done to consider the various
options of docking, merging or enlarging some of these FTAs to form a
regional FTA over time.2. Behind-the-border:
shows that APEC economies and businesses can potentially gain more from
behind-the-border or structural reform than further tariff reductions.
That's why in 2009 APEC's Economic Committee will identify priority
regulatory barriers - with input from the business community - so that
it can develop initiatives to remove them. The World Bank's Doing
Business indicators will be used as a reference for this work.
Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) is also helping to improve
domestic business environments through continued implementation of the
Second Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAPII) which aims to reduce
business transaction costs by a further 5 per cent by 2010.2
of the CTI's new Investment Facilitation Action Plan, aimed at
improving the investment environment throughout the region, is also
progressing. The focus is now on developing key performance indicators
and the actions to be taken under each of the priority themes identified
in 2008 (e-transparency, reducing investor risk and simplifying
A new Services Facilitation Action Plan has also been mooted and this initiative should take shape during 2009.3. Across-the-border:
is also heeding businesses' concerns about the need to improve
logistics and supply chain connectivity in the region. Already APEC's
efforts on streamlining customs procedures lead the world. But in
addition, work is now underway to identify choke points along the entire
supply chain and to prioritise the steps that need to be taken to
remove them. The ultimate objective is to formulate a Supply Chain
Connectivity Framework by the end of the year.
The mobility of
business people is also an issue that APEC is dealing with, through the
APEC Business Travel Card scheme. Over 57,000 business people now hold
the cards, which allow visa-less travel and fast-track immigration
processing into and out of APEC economies. All APEC member economies but
one participate in the scheme, and processing times for issuing new
cards have been substantially reduced. 1
When APEC was established in 1989 average tariffs in the region were 17
per cent, by 2004 they had been reduced to 5.5 per cent. Source:
Mid-Term Stocktake of the Bogor Goals 2005.
2 APEC's first Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAPI) reduced business transaction costs by 5 per cent between 2002 and 2006.