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APEC Business Leaders Push Asia-Pac FTA

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

29 February 2012

The Business Advisory Council (ABAC) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is focused on taking further steps towards realizing the goal of an integrated Asia Pacific economy, and on liberalizing and facilitating 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. It met recently in Hong Kong for the first of four meetings in preparation for developing recommendations to be presented to APEC Leaders in Vladivostok in September 2012.

During their meeting, the business leaders expressed the hope that the APEC would give priority to accelerating regional economic integration, developing stronger infrastructure and supply chains, strengthening food security, and fostering innovative growth.

“Central to our agenda this year is the goal of bringing economies closer together by tackling remaining barriers to the free flow of goods, services and investment and in developing collective responses to the shared challenge of the sustainability of economic growth,” said ABAC’s new Chair, Ziyavudin Magomedov.

With this in mind, ABAC has developed a work programme for 2012 under the theme “From Aspiration to Reality”, which focuses on liberalizing and facilitating trade and investment leading to an FTAAP, initiating a new services agenda, strengthening energy and food security, establishing reliable supply chains and fostering innovative growth including through technology dissemination and financial instruments.

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

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