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APEC Promotes Regional Trade and Investment Liberalization

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

11 September 2012

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers, at their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia from September 5-6, 2012, pledged to achieve a further strengthening of economic integration and trade and investment liberalization in the region.

Firstly, as all APEC economies are now members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ministers confirmed that they would work to enhance its capabilities to combat protectionism, particularly its transparency and trade monitoring functions.

They noted with concern the rise in protectionist instances around the world during the current global economic uncertainty, and professed that “these developments increase the urgency of further action to keep markets open”.

They reaffirmed the commitment made by APEC’s Leaders to extend to the end of 2015 their pledge 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.

The ministers welcomed APEC’s continued progress towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, and, while it was emphasized that they remained firmly committed to their achievement, and APEC economies have made remarkable efforts to reduce barriers to trade and investment, it was also noted that “more work needs to be done since progress has been uneven across areas and sectors”.

They confirmed that they remain committed to a regional economic integration agenda, including a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). With work on transparency issues in trade treaties being seen as a next generation trade and investment issue, the ministers endorsed an updated APEC Model Chapter on Transparency for FTAs, both bilateral and regional.

The Model Chapter is to be used as a guide by APEC economies, and should be a significant contribution to their goal of improving the trading environment for companies and workers, address non-tariff barriers, and contribute to an FTAAP.

Finally, the ministers noted the considerable progress made towards implementing the 2011 Leaders’ commitments to promote trade and investment in environmental goods and services. Time has been dedicated to developing an APEC List of Environmental Goods that should be endorsed by the next Leaders’ meeting. By the end of 2015, applied tariff rates on those goods should be reduced to 5% or less.

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