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APEC Business Calls For Progress Towards Asia-Pac FTA

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

24 July 2012

The Business Advisory Council (ABAC) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is focused on liberalizing and facilitating regional trade and investment, leading ultimately to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

ABAC brings together up to three business leaders from each of the APEC’s 21 economies, in order to provide APEC leaders with information regarding the priorities and concerns of business sector. They met recently in Ho Chi Minh City to finalize their recommendations to be presented to APEC Economic Leaders in Vladivostok in September this year.

The 2012 ABAC Chair Ziyavudin Magomedov said: “ABAC calls for substantive progress to be made towards an FTAAP, and urges that all pathways (to the trade treaty) should reflect the key principles of inclusiveness, transparency and comprehensiveness.”

ABAC has been advocating the concept of an Asia-Pacific free trade area since 2004 and, in 2006, APEC leaders instructed APEC officials to examine various options for regional economic integration, including an FTAAP. It has been said, however, that, since then, progress has been modest.

Nevertheless, ABAC has previously noted the continuing development of a number of possible pathway agreements that could eventually lead to an FTAAP, (for example, the proposed expansion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, being led by the United States), and has called for the broadest possible participation in such initiatives among APEC economies.

Against this background, ABAC adopted the theme “From Aspirations to Reality” which is focused on, for example, regional economic integration and financial markets stability, supply chains and infrastructure development, and food and energy security.

ABAC urges further improvement of regional supply chains, addressing the remaining barriers to the free flow of goods, services and investment. It has been said that, from 2010 to 2020, Asia-Pacific economies will require roughly USD8 trillion in infrastructure investment, a level of demand that cannot be met without substantial involvement of the private sector. ABAC therefore recommends that APEC work to improve the investment environment through the adoption of strong investment principles and protections.

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