Apec Members Must Intensify Work Towards Ambitious Regional Free Trade

Apec Members Must Intensify Work Towards Ambitious Regional Free Trade

BEIJING, Nov 8 (Bernama) — Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) economies must adopt a roadmap and intensify work to realise the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) which is not impossible to achieve although negotiations for the ambitious plan can be complex and fraught with challenges.

Prominent banker Tan Sri Azman Hashim said that a crucial ingredient for governments to adopt the roadmap was to build on advancing trade and investment liberalisation and, in the process, further deepen regional economic integration.

“FTAAP is very important to ABAC as it is the ultimate expression of the achievement of Apec’s Bogor Goals,” said Azman, who is Co-chair of the Finance and Economic Working Group of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Reducing the cost of reducing business and removing obstacles to trade could transform the way business is done in Apec, more so since the grouping accounts for 45 per cent of global trade and half its total Gross Domestic Product.

The Bogor Goals, agreed by APEC leaders in 1994, sought to achieve “free and open trade and investment” in the region by 2010 for developing economies and 2020 for developing members.

In 2005 APEC conducted a review of progress towards the Bogor Goals, and issued the “Busan Roadmap” to chart further progress.

Azman said the business council also appreciated the regional body’s recognition of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Pacific Alliance as important building blocks towards achieving a Free Trade Area in the Asia Pacific.

“We are encouraging governments to adopt a roadmap for FTAAP, which builds on progress in the various trade negotiations currently underway.

“Each government will have a role to play in advancing trade and investment liberalisation in the region and we commend the Malaysian government’s unwavering efforts to maintain free and open trade, as well as, restore market confidence,” he said in an e-mail interview with Bernama.

These were done by pursuing regional and bilateral trading arrangements including the TPP and the RCEP to complement the multilateral approach under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“We have no doubt that the negotiations of these FTAs, identified as leading pathways towards the realisation FTAAP, are complex and potentially far-reaching but not impossible to achieve,” said Azman.

These agreements, especially the RCEP for instance, which Malaysia as a member of Asean is very actively involved, when successfully concluded can transform the way business is done in the region by eliminating barriers to trade and investment, reducing the cost of doing business and optimising supply chain operations.

“Therefore, we urge for substantive advancement be made towards the negotiations of these agreements if they are to meet the business needs,” he said.

On infrastructure financing, Azman said, given the fragile economic recovery, ABAC firmly believed that the private sector through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) had the capacity to help address emerging infrastructure gaps which is beyond the scope of the government.

Responding to the need for a platform for both public and private sectors to objectively discuss measures to create successful PPPs, ABAC has initiated the Asia Pacific Infrastructure Partnership (APIP) in 2010.

“Last year, we also established the Asia Pacific Financial Forum (APFF) which we believe would serve as a regional platform to enhance collaboration among regulators and the financial industry for the development of the region’s financial markets,” he said.

These platforms would bring fresh and innovative views from business to the table and would help promote private sector funding for infrastructure investment.

ABAC has also called for APEC economies to redouble efforts to move forward the WTO Doha Round agenda and the fight against protectionism.

Implementation of the “Bali package” is of utmost importance, in particular the Trade Facilitation Agreement, said Azman.

To this end, APEC economies have been urged to demonstrate greater leadership in securing a commercially significant expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) by limiting sensitivities and supporting the mutually balanced and ambitious liberalisation goals set forth in the initial ITA expansion negotiations.

Azman, who is also chairman of AMBank Group Bhd, is here to attend the Fourth ABAC Meeting and annual dialogue with APEC Leaders from Nov 5-10 while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will represent Malaysia at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit from 10-11 Nov.

Established in 1989, APEC comprises 21 nations, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, United States, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.


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