An agreement to enhance trade linkages and foster sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth marked a positive wrap-up to the first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 1) and other related APEC meetings on Friday.
The results achieved at the meetings laid the ground for following SOMs and the year-end Summit, said SOM Chair and Deputy Foreign Minister of Viet Nam Bui Thanh Son.
He said SOM 1, featuring senior officials from the 21 APEC member economies, was significant for three reasons: it was taking place in the context of uncertainties and continued slow growth of the regional and international economy; the bloc faced the challenges of meeting Bogor Goals in three years; and the enterprise community as well as the public pinned high hopes on APEC contributing to an improved business environment and improving people’s quality of life.
“The meeting brought together APEC officials determined to enhance co-operation towards addressing issues and challenges facing the whole region,” the Deputy FM said.
On the 2020 deadline for free and open trade among the economies, called the Bogor Goals, APEC Secretariat’s Executive Director Alan Bollard said: “We have made huge progress on it, it’s fair to say but over the last couple of years, that progress is slowing down so we need to continue regulatory reforms.
“We know that it is a long game we are playing. So Viet Nam is contributing many initiatives this year. It will continue the work that was done by Peru last year, the Philippines the year before and Papua New Guinea next year.
“Viet Nam is already going to help some discussions on where APEC should go after 2020, should it be more of the same or should we take a different approach,” he said.
Under the theme of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future,” APEC members have high expectations of a shared future, because that has always been the goal, nothing can change that, Bollard said.
Convening for the first time in 2017 in Nha Trang City with Viet Nam as the chair, senior officials are developing trade and economic policies that all corners of society can embrace and benefit from across APEC – whose member economies circle the Pacific Rim and account for three billion people, half of global trade and 60 per cent of world GDP.
The emphasis this year has been on providing new direction for regional economic integration and promoting sustainability in APEC; greater support for workers and small business participation in trade; and enhanced food security and agricultural sustainability in an era of climate change.
“The biggest achievement of SOM 1 was the high consensus on enhanced economic and trade co-operation and linkage, and sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth,” Son said.
All four orientations proposed by host Viet Nam received unanimous support and agreement.
First, co-operation orientations and concrete steps must be persisted with to reach the Bogor Goals on free trade and investment in 2020.
Second, a mechanism must be formed for discussions on post-2020 APEC visions.
“Viet Nam plans to hold multi-party dialogues on APEC towards 2020 with a post-2020 vision and all member economies agree that the mechanism will encompass not only Government officials, but other parties such as scholars, enterprises, and international and social organisations,” Son said.
Third, the members will re-orient APEC co-operation, focusing not just on free trade, but on ensuring inclusiveness of trade and growth.
Fourth, APEC should remain a leading co-operation mechanism to address practical demands of the people, that is the development of human resources in the digital age, cross-border e-commerce, supporting industry, and rural-urban development to reinforce food security and quality growth.
“APEC will continue its leading role in enhancing co-operation to support the multilateral trading system, gradually realise a free trade area in the region and connect micro, small and medium enterprises,” Son said.
During the 12 working days, all the four committees and 34 out of 53 working groups of APEC sat together for 60 meetings, workshops and dialogues and approved co-operation foci for each committee and group in 2017.
The other working groups will commence their meetings in the months to come. Numerous capacity building projects have also been put forward to support member economies take better advantage of trade, investment and business opportunities brought about by APEC co-operation.
SOM 1 delegates also approved the agenda for the APEC Year 2017, which includes three Senior Officials’ Meetings in Nha Trang, Ha Noi and HCM City, and Ministers’ and Ministerial Meetings and the Summit Week in Da Nang.