Today, APEC trade officials considered a forward work plan for 2009 which will help to promote regional economic integration.
Apart from examining the options and long-term prospects for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), trade officials considered concrete steps to take so that they can achieve meaningful progress on regional economic integration.
The proposals included plans for opening up trade and improving investment regimes. Laying out its objectives for 2009, the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment seeks to make progress on directions that were set out by Ministers Responsible for Trade when they met in Arequipa earlier this year in June.
"There are challenges, as well as benefits, to negotiating large-scale agreements. Work on regional economic integration is underway," said Ms Elizabeth Chelliah, Chair of the APEC Committtee on Trade and Investment.
"We have been conducting analyses of the provisions in free trade agreements in light of having a better understanding of the areas of convergences and divergences in response to business concerns over the FTA spaghetti bowl."
"We have come to understand that that there are differing interpretations for rules of origin. Sometimes these measures unnecessarily protect domestic industries from foreign competition," said Ms Chelliah. "Examining on a sectoral basis these preferential rules of origin will allow us to seek common approaches within APEC."
"In addition, recognizing how domestic policies impact trade, we have begun work on investment with the implementation of the Investment Facilitation Action Plan which was endorsed by Trade Ministers."
"Huge benefits can accrue to producers and consumers by encouraging efficient trade logistics. Through a policy dialogue in 2009, we will better understand the economic rationalization and welfare gains that result from land, air and sea connections.
While the progress was well received by the business community, they asked that APEC officials continue to focus on addressing practical concerns that could improve global commerce.
"The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) reiterates its belief that the FTAAP represents a practical means to converge the various trade agreements that already exist in the region. A regional agreement would advance trade and investment liberalization, helping APEC economies to achieve their long-standing goal for lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers," said Mr. Juan Francisco Raffo who chairs ABAC.
"While we are enthusiastic about APEC undertaking its second trade facilitation action plan, we hope that officials will ensure that outcomes are relevant to actual business practices.
"We urge APEC officials to simplify processes so that doing business in the region is easier."
"In particular, emphasis should be placed on improving transparency in investment rules and decision-making. We are pleased that the model measures developed by the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment reflect these concerns." Mr. Raffo concluded.
APEC model measures contribute to the promotion of high-quality and comprehensive free-trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region. They are intended to encourage a coherent and consistent approach to the design and content of such agreements.
Contributing to this work, the CTI also accepted reports from APEC sub-fora work related to market access in goods and services, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, customs, standards and conformance, business mobility, electronic commerce, , life sciences and chemicals.