Trade officials from the 21 APEC members are accelerating efforts to strengthen the integration of Asia-Pacific economies needed to capitalize on 21st century market opportunities and drive a new generation of inclusive trade and growth across the region.
Facilitating trade-boosting measures that engage groups which have benefited less from globalization in the past, create jobs and promote sustainability is at the top of the agenda for officials and stakeholders convened in Cebu. The proceedings will culminate with a key meeting of APEC Senior Officials here on 5-6 September to chart the next step under the theme Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.
Focus is on free trade agreements and regional trade agreements, and the potential to incorporate emerging trade and investment issues, open sectors such as services that support small business participation in cross-border trade and supply chains, and promote the convergence of the region’s growing ‘spaghetti bowl’ of agreements—APEC members currently account for 144 free trade agreements, more than half of the total globally.
Officials are fleshing out the details of a collective strategic study on issues related to the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP, endorsed by APEC Leaders in a Beijing Roadmap last November. It followed a directive from APEC Leaders in 2010 calling on APEC members to pursue the FTAAP as a comprehensive trade agreement that builds and develops on emerging regional undertakings.
Drafting of the collective strategic study is underway, based on chapter work plans developed under the Terms of Reference agreed upon by APEC Trade Ministers in Boracay in May. The drafting is being carried out by an FTAAP Task Force led by China and the United States and including all other APEC members.
APEC Trade Ministers instructed officials to report on the progress of the FTAAP collective strategic study during the 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in Manila from 13-19 November. The final version of the study and any accompanying recommendations are due at the end of 2016, when APEC Leaders and Ministers will meet in Peru.
Issues related to the realization of the FTAAP and the possible direction of the collective strategic study were examined during a seminar held in Cebu. Information sharing trade policy dialogues were also held here on free trade agreements and regional trade agreements, led by APEC Senior Officials, as well as localization requirements for importers and exporters. Experts from the APEC Policy Support Unit, the APEC Business Advisory Council, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council and APEC Study Centers were among the invited participants.
New joint projects to support the technical bandwidth of diverse APEC member economies to foster greater regional economic integration and establish the FTAAP are additionally being taken forward, part of a multi-year capacity building needs initiative overseen by Korea. Complexities of rules of origin and logistical challenges of trade facilitation, or the simplification of customs procedures, are current points of emphasis.
Progress on the drafting of the collective strategic study on issues related to the realization of the FTAAP, outcomes from trade policy dialogues and capacity building needs initiative updates will be on the agenda during this weekend’s Third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting.
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Downloadable photos from the FTAAP Task Force Meeting can be viewed here.
Downloadable photos from the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting Dialogue on Free Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements can be viewed here.
Context for these and related APEC meetings taking place in Cebu, and culminating with the Third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM3) on 5-6 September can be found at this link.
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