APEC economies have made significant progress in reforming regulations to better assist businesses, a key initiative to help drive economic growth, an APEC survey of structural reform in the Asia-Pacific region shows.

The survey outlines steps that APEC’s 21 economies have taken to reform five priority areas that are crucial to improve the business environment and enhance economic growth: regulatory reform, competition policy, strengthening economic and legal infrastructure, public sector governance and corporate governance.

“There are indeed many unique but ambitious programmes aiming at creating a business-friendly environment through regulatory reform ... which suggests that governments across the APEC region have recognised the importance of regulatory reform as a key instrument to attracting businesses and enhancing growth potential,” the report concludes.

The 2011 APEC Economic Policy Report (AEPR) was released during meetings of APEC officials under way in Big Sky, Montana and ahead of a meeting of APEC Trade Ministers and Small and Medium Enterprise Ministers this week.

“Structural reforms refer to measures to improve market efficiency, such as improvements to regulatory systems, competition frameworks and governance structures,” said APEC Economic Committee Chair Takashi Omori.

As tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers at the border have diminished in the APEC region, APEC’s focus has shifted to the structural and regulatory obstacles or “behind the border” barriers that inhibit cross-border trade and improved business performance.

‘If economies increase their efficiency, flexibility and resilience through structural reform, the Asia-Pacific is stronger as a region.The global financial crisis that hit in 2008 highlighted the weaknesses in some economies’ regulatory and institutional settings, and reinforced the importance of the work being conducted by APEC in this area,” Dr Omori said.

The report shows the progress of individual APEC economies in pursuing domestic structural reforms. It also evaluates APEC’s work in raising awareness of the importance of structural reforms, and building the capacity of its member economies, particularly developing ones, to carry them out.

The Economic Committee has conducted large numbers of activities, including seminars and training courses and produced checklists and guidelines and an annual report to assist economies to pursue these reforms in support of the Leaders' Agenda to Implement Structural Reform (LAISR), an initiative adopted by APEC Leaders in 2004.

Through these activities, economies share information, best practices and lessons learnt on this key policy area.

The AEPR 2011 also shows various research results which underscore the importance of undertaking structural reform to achieve economic growth.

A study by APEC’s research arm, the Policy Support Unit, has found that reform in key infrastructure industries in member economies has resulted in lower prices for consumers, increased consumer choice and improved efficiency and productivity. It has also estimated that further reform in the energy, telecommunications and transport sectors of the APEC region will generate USD 175 billion a year in additional income.

Acknowledging the success of the LAISR initiative, Leaders meeting in Yokohama, Japan last November agreed to expand the agenda, adopting the APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform or ANSSR.

A symposium was successfully held in Big Sky this week that drew together APEC economic policy makers and experts from the OECD, the World Bank and other international groups.

"The AEPR 2011 will serve as a good reference for APEC member economies as they proceed with structural reform work under ANSSR", Dr Omori concluded.

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For more information, contact:  Michael Chapnick +1 (202) 664 6245 at mc@apec.org or Augustine Kwan +65 9831 0717 at ak@apec.org