Sendai, Japan, 20 September, 2010 - Businesses, academics and APEC officials gathered on Monday to finalise action plans aimed at improving supply chain connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, crucial to boosting economic growth and speeding up regional economic integration.

APEC has been developing the action plans after working with business and government sectors last year to identify eight critical chokepoints in the supply chain, relating to regulatory impediments, customs inefficiencies and inadequate transport networks and infrastructure.

The action plans are part of efforts to achieve multi-modal connectivity by air, land and sea, and to facilitate a seamless flow of goods, services and people throughout the Asia Pacific. This is part of APEC's priority to speed up regional economic integration.

Improving overall multi-modal performance would increase intra- and extra- regional trade by up to $500 billion annually, research by APEC's Policy Support Unit shows. Although individual transport modes are important, making them work through an efficient logistics system is vital.

"Seamless connectivity is very important to increasing economic growth and forging an interconnected region," Elizabeth Chelliah, the Chair of APEC's Committee on Trade and Investment, told the experts gathered in Sendai, Japan.

"We will identify how to implement the ideas set out in the action plans and how to identify and measure the positive progress made in eradicating and eliminating these impediments to trade," Ms Chelliah said.

Business and academics told the symposium, being held over two days, that disruptions to supply chain connections such as breakdowns in transport networks and unexpected changes in regulations and customs procedures lead to shipments of goods being slowed, stopped or turned around.

Paul Gray, vice president of logistics at MDS Nordion which makes medical isotopes and sterilization products, said the regulatory environment in which it operates was necessary and stringent given the radioactive nature of many of the products being shipped.

Timing in delivery of these critical products was crucial. Hence, any disruption to the supply chain "not only adversely effects our business, but more importantly it can have a significant adverse effect on those patients who are waiting for the product for diagnosis or treatment of a life threatening disease."

The chair of APEC's Business Advisory Council, Gempachiro Aihara, said ABAC would continue to cooperate with APEC on the issue "since a strong, smooth and improved supply chain in the flow of goods and services across borders in the region is definitely in the interests of business."

As well as making it easier to trade across borders, improving connectivity will contribute to a more efficient supply chain, greater productivity and employment and increased personal mobility. This plays a role in achieving APEC's new vision of balanced, inclusive, sustainable and knowledge-based growth.