APEC drafting new blueprint for improved regional connectivity

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bridgeThe Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is drawing up a new regional connectivity blueprint to bring diverse markets, businesses, and people closer together to facilitate trade and investment across the Asia-Pacific.

“The connectivity blueprint is a major deliverable of APEC 2014,” said Tan Jian, China’s APEC Senior Official who is currently administering the initiative. “The blueprint will guide our cross-cutting efforts to promote regional economic integration and encourage growth in the economy. It will also help us better understand where gaps lie and how best to address them.”

The current focus will be on taking stock of the efforts of APEC economies to address the region’s changing physical infrastructure needs and deepening institutional and people-to-people linkages. The cooperation will also gather inputs from regional and global organizations on what can be done to enhance cross-cutting initiatives.

“This is a strategic undertaking that involves lots of moving parts and priorities,” said Dr. Denis Hew, director of the APEC Policy Support Unit which is leading the connectivity blueprint’s preliminary fact-finding and analytical work. “It’s important that the physical and soft components of efforts to improve connectivity within the region complement and reinforce one another.”

“Well-defined targets, timeframes and review procedures are absolutely critical to the successful implementation of the blueprint and for the delivery of meaningful results,” added Hew, whose team is also responsible for proposing the methodology of tracking and benchmarking the progress of APEC policy commitments.

APEC economies are together striving to achieve a 10 percent improvement in supply chain performance by 2015. This will involve simplifying customs and immigration procedures further, harmonizing industry regulations and standards, and cutting administrative costs for permits and shipping containers.

An APEC Multi-Year Plan on Infrastructure Development and Investment, to be implemented through 2016, was also introduced at the recent two-day meeting of APEC trade ministers in Qingdao, China. Focus areas include showcasing public-private partnership infrastructure projects, giving recommendations for bankable PPP delivery, and establishing new PPP centers to promote these arrangements.

“The integrated world we operate in today means that infrastructure in one economy, whether it be roads, ports and airports, or something like energy and information technology systems, is, in essence, part of a much larger whole,” noted Dr. Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “It’s important that gaps between diverse economies be addressed to keep everyone moving in a positive direction and maximize new trade opportunities.”

Photo: Aleksandr Zykov