Senior Apec officials prepare for ‘big party’
CLARKFIELD, Pampanga—Senior officials of 21 economies in the Asia Pacific gathered here at a former US military base turned industry hub and went straight to work on Friday in preparation for the biggest party to be thrown by the Philippines this year.
The Philippines’ second outing as host of the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ summit in November went on display Friday at the two-day first Apec Senior Officials Meeting at the Fontana Convention Center.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said the Philippines would host 200 meetings that would culminate with the Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Nov.18 to 19 in Manila where Asia Pacific leaders like US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend.
It will be the second time since 1996 that the Philippines will host Apec, a forum to facilitate economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region made up of 21 economies representing 40 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of world gross domestic product and about 44 percent of world trade.
There were 1,600 delegates to the Apec Senior Officials’ Meeting here, 900 of them foreigners. They had held more than 30 working group and committee-level meetings since Jan. 26 , according to Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, who is the Apec spokesperson.
The delegates’ discussions were aimed at advancing Apec’s three goals of trade liberalization, business facilitation and economic cooperation.
Welcoming the delegates in very brief remarks, Foreign Undersecretary Laura Del Rosario, who chaired the meeting, reminded her colleagues of their responsibility “to lay down the groundwork for policy direction of Apec 2015, which actually is built upon last year’s priorities of China and revolves around advancing regional economic integration, promoting innovative development, economic reform and growth, and strengthening comprehensive connectivity and infrastructure development.”
Among the proposals that China had pushed and adopted by Apec leaders included the establishment of a free trade area in Asia Pacific. Apec leaders had agreed to embark on a two-year study on this.
In her statement, Del Rosario said that services would be the “main focus of our goals here because services really form part of the connectivity aspects of Asia Pacific,” as she noted that this year Apec will continue with the Public-Private Dialogue on services that was started in 2013.
As part of the Apec-related meetings, the Philippines hosted along with the Apec Business Advisory Council and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council the first of a series of these Public-Private Dialogues aimed at helping the two sectors in “examining developments, challenges and opportunities and in building the full potential of the services sector through Apec.”
The discussions of the delegates centered on four priorities for this year’s Apec and according to Del Rosario these were advancing the regional economic integration agenda, fostering small and medium enterprises’ participation in regional and global markets; investing in human capital development and building sustainable and resilient communities.
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