International trade is gradually improving and there is renewed energy in the multilateral trading system, which APEC member economies are driving forward, but sustained efforts are needed to boost trade flows to desired levels and put the world economy on a path to more robust growth and prosperity.
This was the assessment provided by APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Alan Bollard and World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in a joint press conference along the margins of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting that concludes on Sunday.
“The Asia-Pacific region has of course seen very high growth, driven by very high trade growth, but over the last few years there has been much less trade growth,” explained Dr Bollard. “Ministers are talking about some big topics to give direction from the top down.”
The implementation of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation is now a focus within APEC. Member economies are working together to build global capacity for this based on their experience in simplifying customs procedures and cutting unnecessary administrative costs for moving goods across borders.
As a result of measures like these, trade transaction costs in the APEC region dropped by ten per cent between 2002 and 2010. Reductions during the 2007-2010 period alone saved businesses nearly USD 60 billion.
It is estimated that global trade could increase between USD 350 billion to USD1 trillion annually through the adoption of comparable initiatives under the trade facilitation agreement.
“We have to try to finish the work that will put the agreement in place,” declared Azevêdo, who briefed Trade Ministers earlier on the state of play for multilateral trading system development. “On the conclusion of the Doha Round, we have to move from a discussion about general concepts into one that is more specific, more focused in a solution finding motif,” he added.
Azevêdo explained that APEC economies’ historic role in advancing global trade offers lessons for achieving greater progress.
“In 1993, President Clinton hosted the APEC summit in Seattle and a few months later, we were able to conclude the Uruguay Round,” said Azevêdo. “Then, in 2001, the APEC summit in Shanghai allowed us to launch the Doha Round a few months later.”
“Last year, when I was here, in October for the APEC summit, it was the outcome of that meeting that gave another push that allowed us to conclude the trade facilitation agreement and the Bali Package a few months later,” he continued.
The next step in supporting this process and further combating protectionism has been a point of discussion among Trade Ministers this weekend.
For high resolution photos from the joint press conference, click here.
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