Senior officials from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum met at the mountain resort of Big Sky, Montana, yesterday and today to seek deeper regional economic integration, promote sustainable growth, and facilitate job creation. The officials convened for the second time this year to continue deliberations on how best to achieve concrete results through the APEC process.
U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman, who chaired the meeting, thanked officials from the region for all their hard work and was optimistic on the prospects of completing ambitious initiatives by the time President Obama hosts the APEC Leaders in Honolulu in November.
APEC representatives considered ways to build toward a seamless regional economy by advancing three priorities in 2011: strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade and investment; encouraging green growth; and advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence in order to reduce the barriers that businesses—especially smaller companies—face in the region. To this end, they discussed ways to enhance public-private cooperation, leverage clean technologies, and make it easier, faster, and cheaper to conduct business in the region.
APEC officials agreed to address next generation trade and investment issues this year, including facilitating global supply chains, enhancing SMEs’ participation in production chains, and promoting effective, non-discriminatory, and market-driven innovation policy. APEC’s work in these areas will make an important contribution to strengthening regional integration and expanding trade—and will move economies in the region closer to achievement of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a next generation trade agreement.
Senior officials discussed how APEC can make progress to address trade and investment in environmental goods, technology and services, which create unnecessary obstacles in a sector which is critical to APEC’s green growth objectives. APEC also agreed to advance work related to illegal logging and associated trade.
Public-private cooperation is a traditional strength of APEC and APEC officials discussed ways to further enhance the role of the private sector in APEC discussions. As one step, they endorsed a proposal for a Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy, which will help elevate the profile of women’s issues in the region. Senior Officials also were united on the need for effective action in light of recent natural disasters in the region, and considered steps, including through public-private cooperation, that APEC can take to help strengthen emergency preparedness.
APEC senior officials also made strides toward development of a robust work plan on fossil fuel subsidy reform. APEC’s work in this area will focus on technical assistance and capacity building with a particular emphasis on employing best practices for phasing out subsidies while providing essential energy services to vulnerable populations. APEC senior officials also welcomed efforts to explore the use of low-carbon development strategies as an essential component of sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region, noting that some APEC economies have shown leadership in this area by developing integrated environmental and economic growth plans.
APEC officials also advanced work on structural reform, a key element of APEC’s strategy to promote higher quality growth in the Asia-Pacific region that is strong, balanced, inclusive and sustainable. Under APEC’s New Strategy for Structural Reform—endorsed by leaders last year in Yokohama—each APEC member economy is working to identify its priority areas for structural reform before leaders meet again in Hawaii in November.
The APEC Senior Officials met just prior to the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade and Small and Medium Enterprise Ministers, who are to convene from May 19-21 here and will focus on APEC’s 2011 agenda to further advance free and open trade in the region.