Friday, November 13, 2009

APEC Ministerial Meeting

After two days of discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting, held in Singapore, ministers have agreed on the establishment of the Asia-Pacific free trade zone as a long-term goal. APEC has directed the officials to do further research on the Asia-Pacific free trade zone proposal and to present report at next year's APEC Ministerial Meeting. While this is a long-term goal, but when APEC economies, with total trade accounted for 44 percent world trade achieves this goal, APEC will be recognized as the world's most dynamic economies in Asia.

Establishing Free Trade Zone
Asia-Pacific free trade zone, the concept that can best fit the spirit of trade liberalization, has become APEC economic and foreign ministers' consensus as a new APEC target for APEC economies to work hard to achieve in the coming years.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated on 12 November that as a member of APEC the United States and the Obama administration would view APEC as the necessary forum for the United States to keep in touch and to take joint action with the region.

The economic and foreign ministers from 21 economies reached some important consensus on 11 November after holding two rounds of talk. These include the establishment of the Asia-Pacific free trade zone; to help make the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Doha Round of trade negotiations to achieve results; and to promote the region's inclusive growth and sustainable growth. They also agreed to further strengthen discussion and cooperation in these areas.

According to Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kazuo Kodama, although there were still some different views among APEC economic and foreign ministers on how to implement the Asia-Pacific free trade zone plan, but they all believed that regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region should be the direction APEC should strive forth to achieve.

Hillary Clinton's Views
At the press conference held after the informal talk prior to the APEC Ministerial Meeting, Hillary Clinton reiterated the firm commitment and substantive cooperation that the US Government would give APEC.

Hillary Clinton said: "When President Obama arrives in Singapore during later part of the week, his arrival will further highlight APEC as a necessary forum for all to keep in touch and to take joint action on common issues."

Hillary Clinton also expressed her gratitude to Singapore for making great efforts to take leading role in organizing this year's APEC.

When Singaporean Foreign Affairs George Yeo accepted an interview after he had breakfast with APEC foreign ministers, he also pointed out that strengthening ties across the Pacific should help to bring more peace for another generation and, thus improving the lives of the people in the Asia-Pacific region as their countries seek economic development. Nevertheless, Foreign Minister George Yeo also pointed out the apparent risk of resistance over trade liberalization process. He warned that: "It has been an increasing protectionism, which is very dangerous. The process of trade liberalization is a slippery slope. If we are not careful, we can easily and unwittingly get ourselves trapped into serious situation. It is important for all to adhere to the commitment to free trade."

Future Regional Cooperation Framework
When APEC ministers discussed and reviewed the current APEC plans and the future regional cooperation framework, all of them agreed with some of the agenda proposed by Singapore, which hosted this year's APEC Summit. These proposals include the promotion of border trade liberalization; improvement on all APEC economies' business environment; and the strengthening of inter-industry supply chain network. They agreed that these were all key APEC goals that would need further discussion.

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