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APEC Commits To Free Trade

by Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

12 November 2010


Trade and foreign ministers of the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member nations recommended the extension of the commitment to a standstill on new trade and investment barriers until the end of 2013, and confirmed that concrete steps should be taken to realise a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

These commitments were adopted by the ministers at the conclusion of their annual meeting held this year in Yokohama, Japan on November 10 and 11. Participants at the meeting also included representatives of the APEC Business Advisory Council, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy.

"Open markets are vital for growth and job creation, enabling strong and sustainable growth in this region," the ministers’ statement said. "While world economy is on its way to recovery; however, there still remains a possibility of increasing protectionist measures in the future.”

The APEC ministers "agreed to recommend to our leaders to re-extend their commitment on standstill made in 2008, to refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services imposing new export restrictions, or implementing WTO-inconsistent measures in all areas, including those that stimulate exports, until the end of 2013."

The leaders meeting in Lima in 2008 during the global financial crisis had committed to refraining from raising new barriers to investments or to trade in goods and services, and recommitted again last year when they met in Singapore. Ministers also meeting in 2009 made the same commitment, to the end of 2010, "and beyond if necessary."

The ministers also underlined the importance of APEC's work on strengthening regional economic integration (REI) - including exploring possible pathways to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) - and affirmed that taking concrete steps towards realizing an FTAAP is an important part of the REI agenda.

The ministers had been instructed by their leaders to explore a range of possible pathways to achieve an FTAAP by November 2010. “In light of recent developments regarding the economic architecture in the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement read, “such as those related to regional trade agreements (RTAs) and free trade agreements (FTAs), we affirmed that taking concrete steps toward realization of an FTAAP is an important part of the REI agenda.”

With regard to the services sector, they endorsed efforts to promote cross-border trade in services in new areas of interest, including legal services, accounting services, environmental services, health services, and information and communication technology-related services. They welcomed the further work undertaken towards developing a database of regulatory requirements in the services sector on a voluntary basis.

The ministers recognised that making rules of origin more business-friendly by cutting compliance costs helps promote the use of high-quality RTAs and FTAs. They instructed their officials to continue to develop capacity-building projects to support wider participation in the APEC self-certification of origin proposals.

TAGS: Russia | tax | investment | free trade agreement (FTA) | Brunei | Chile | law | tariffs | Australia | China | Mexico | Philippines | Singapore | Taiwan | Thailand | agreements | Canada | Hong Kong | Korea, South | Malaysia | New Zealand | Peru | United States | trade | Japan | Vietnam | free trade zone

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