Yokohama, Japan, November 09, 2010 - APEC is working hard to foster closer cooperation and integration in the Asia-Pacific region so that growth and prosperity is shared by future generations, APEC Secretariat Executive Director, Ambassador Muhamad Noor, said on Tuesday.
Ambassador Noor said APEC is focused on three broad areas to boost economic growth across the region; trade and investment liberalization and facilitation; making it easier and cheaper to do business in the region; and increasing economic and technical cooperation between members.

Speaking at an APEC youth forum in the Japanese city of Yokohama, Ambassador Noor pointed to a 61 percent reduction in tariffs in the Asia-Pacific region since 1989, when APEC was formed, thanks in part to its ongoing work on trade liberalization.

Average applied tariffs have reduced from 16.9 percent in 1989 to 6.6 percent in 2008. APEC's activities have also contributed to a six-fold increase in APEC members' total trade in the same period. And, as a result, GDP per capita in the region has increased 47 percent.

"What this means for consumers and citizens are lower prices, greater choices, better standards of living, and, importantly, more employment," Ambassador Noor told youth leaders, university students and officials.

"For businesses, this translates to open markets, increased competition and innovation, and reduced production costs. And from a broader perspective, for economies, this means increased trade between members, economic development and regional integration.

"It is widely known that trade contributes to growth and creates employment; and jobs created in exporting industries tend to be better paying."

Ambassador Noor was giving the keynote speech at the APEC Voices of the Future 2010, an annual event for youth leaders in APEC member economies that aims to provide a platform to engage with government and business on issues relevant to APEC. The event was held at Nissan headquarters in Yokohama and was organised to coincide with Leaders' Week.

Given its membership and economic influence, APEC is an important entity on the world stage. It is a strategic vehicle for diplomatic and economic engagement between economies such as the US, China, Japan and Russia, and it plays an important role in advancing negotiations in other forums such as the WTO, the Ambassador told the forum.

"APEC's range and size also means that its core work can result in large-scale achievements and far-reaching benefits," he added.

APEC members now account for 40 percent of the world's population, 44 percent of global trade and 54 percent of world GDP.

APEC is committed to the Bogor Goals set in 1994 of realizing free and open trade and investment in the region, which are a key to enhancing growth and prosperity. An assessment of member economies' progress towards these goals has been undertaken and will be presented to Leaders in Yokohama this week.

Ambassador Noor said increasing technical cooperation is an important part of APEC's agenda, especially for the developing economies, to help secure the region's growth. Some 1,600 capacity building projects have been undertaken within APEC since 1993.

APEC is also focused on improving the ease of doing business in the region, from initiatives that simplify customs procedures to those that seek to harmonise standards and regulations. APEC's trade facilitation action plan led to a five percent reduction in business transaction costs in the region between 2002 and 2006. A second action plan looks set to achieve another five percent cut.

APEC is also working towards its goal of making it 25 percent cheaper, faster and easier to do business by 2015, with an action plan that helps in particular development of the region's small and medium enterprises.

In light of the global financial crisis, Japan, as host of APEC in 2010, is leading development of a new growth strategy that aims to sustain prosperity in the future in the region. The strategy, which is expected to be released by Leaders this week, focuses on five attributes of growth: balanced, sustainable, innovative, inclusive and secure.

"Given the uncertainty surrounding the health of the global economy and persistent concerns related to climate change and energy and food security, APEC's focus has turned to considering how to sustain future economic growth," Ambassador Noor said.

"APEC's new vision points to a broadening of the APEC agenda, from trade and investment liberalisation, towards broader social and environmental objectives.

"This means that rather than just promoting economic growth, APEC will be pursuing "higher quality growth" - namely growth that is sustainable and that will ensure prosperity for all in the long term. This new paradigm highlights APEC as a dynamic forum that responds to new challenges and global realities."