Political leaders within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc have gathered in the eastern port city of Ningbo, China, for the APEC China 2014 to discuss measures to strengthen regional integration and trade flows to raise consumption-based growth.
APEC senior officials are scheduled to meet on February 27 and 28 after a cluster of working group meetings now underway in the city to address the technical aspects of trade development and greater economic integration.
Among the issues that senior officials and technical specialists will tackle include building support for comprehensive trade agreements and the next steps towards a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
Li Baodong, Vice Foreign Minister of China and Chair of APEC Senior Officials in 2014, said the region must work to provide the kind of access that businesses need to better trade and invest in each other’s markets.
“It’s also figuring out how advancements in the regional architecture can position us to achieve our long-term objectives like an FTAAP,” Li added.
“The future of growth rests, to a large extent, on freer markets and lower barriers at and behind-the-border as demand for goods and services in the Asia-Pacific rises,” said Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat’s executive director. “APEC economies are leading efforts to address ‘next generation’ trade issues that a future FTAAP could contain and which are starting to catch hold within the WTO as we saw with the Bali Package and its parallel focus on customs simplification.”
The Ningbo gathering is important to ensure that APEC economies implement their commitments to reduce tariffs on a list of environmental goods, build the reliability of supply chains, and improve the ease of doing business in the region by next year, Dr Bollard added. “Following through will provide an additional boost to the global trading system and support our pursuit of more ambitious measures to achieve higher quality growth.”
Other issues to be raised are about enhancing the blueprint for seamless connectivity in the region, and implementing a complementary multiyear plan on infrastructure development and investment as endorsed by APEC leaders in Bali, Indonesia.
APEC China 2014 participants will likewise talk about establishing a new public-private partnership center in Indonesia to help strengthen the infrastructure financing landscape, improving mobility in the region through a better APEC Business Travel Card program, and raising the number of intra-APEC university-level students per year to one million by 2020.