World Economy

APEC Supports WTO to Boost Global Trade

APEC Supports WTO  to Boost Global TradeAPEC Supports WTO  to Boost Global Trade

Trade ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific countries have issued strong support for the World Trade Organization’s efforts to boost global trade amid a flurry of regional free trade agreements.

The ministers vowed Sunday at the end of their two-day meeting on the central Philippine resort island of Boracay to ratify by December a landmark trade facilitation deal and to contribute to a work program to conclude the much-delayed Doha round of trade negotiations, AP reported.

The ministers said they would rectify trade measures consistent with WTO provisions but which have a significant protectionist effect.

They also said they’d endorse measures bolstering micro enterprises’ ability to take part in global trade. Small companies comprise 97 percent of businesses in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping of nations, and contribute significantly to employment and poverty alleviation.

  Trade Pact Progress

The trade ministers agreed on details of a study to identify challenges and ways toward the creation of a region-wide free trade zone, Kyodo reported.

The ministers “welcome the progress on the Collective Strategic Study” on crystallizing the idea of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, they said in a statement released at the end of the meeting.

“We acknowledge the importance of this study in providing useful analysis of the opportunities and challenges ahead,” it said. The ministers instructed officials to report progress on the study for the ambitious free trade initiative by November when their leaders are slated to meet, with an eye to completing it by the end of 2016.

Last November, APEC leaders affirmed at a summit in Beijing their commitment to realizing the FTAAP “as early as possible” and agreed to launch the strategic study.

The action comes as negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative that includes the United States and Japan but not China — seen as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence in the region — have stalled despite Washington striving to secure a deal by this summer.

  Strong Will

On Sunday, ministers from the 12 TPP countries held an informal breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the APEC gathering, and assessed the progress achieved in recent working-level negotiations, according to industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa.

Miyazawa told reporters that the ministers did not engage in negotiations themselves but confirmed their “strong will” to conclude the TPP talks, which have bogged down due to the unclear prospects for a crucial US bill for fast-track approval of a trade deal.

At the APEC, the 21 economies also emphasized “the importance of quality infrastructure” in mitigating environmental risks and enhancing resilience to natural disasters in the fast-growing region.

“We encourage officials to explore initiatives to secure quality of infrastructure across various sectors,” the statement said.

The idea was initiated by Japan and supported by the United States during the meeting, Japanese officials said, amid China’s growing influence in the region’s infrastructure development, underscored by the planned establishment of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.


The APEC forum groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The Asia-Pacific region stands out today as the world’s premier regional economic bloc. It accounts for 55% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) as of 2013.

Based on data released at the on-going APEC 2015 meetings here, this GDP has grown at an average 6.1 percent annually since 1992, faster than both non-APEC countries’ average growth of 5.7 percent and the world’s average growth of 5.9 percent over the same period.

The region’s 2.8 billion people account for 40 percent of the world’s population, thus providing a huge market. It also accounts for 44 percent of world trade.