‘Economic integration still best for Apec countries’
LIMA, Peru — In a message that seemed directed at US President-elect Donald Trump, business leaders from the member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) cautioned world leaders Thursday about “retreating into protectionism and inward-looking policies.”
Business leaders meeting here for the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) said economic integration in the Asia Pacific region remained the best course of action among the 21 Pacific Rim countries belonging in Apec.
“Regional economic integration can be made to work better and its benefits more obvious,” said said Juan Raffo, the ABAC chair for 2016, in a statement.
“If governments adopt policies which enhance the capacity of economies, their communities and people will be better able to take advantage of more open and competitive markets,” he said.
“In the face of growing public disquiet about the impact of freer trade and investment, business leaders are concerned that many governments are looking to impose new tariff and non tariff barriers,” Raffo said.
But “protectionist actions make it harder for business to play its part in creating employment and raising living standards across the region,” he said in remarks that appeared to be in response to Trump’s vaunted economic policies focusing on shoring up the US economy.
“Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) and recent election results in both developed and developing economies seem to have served as a referendum on the merits of economic integration,” he said.
Raffo said such developments had created an “unprecedented uncertainty about the direction of the global economy.”
“They appear to call into question the successful model of economic integration that has been responsible for rapid growth and the spread of prosperity around the world,” he added.
“We accept the need to do more to help convince our citizens that economic integration is directly linked to expanding prosperity and that open markets – enhanced by new technologies and ways of doing business – have lifted millions out of poverty,” he said.
Raffo expressed disappointment over the slow progress of discussions and negotiations for the planned Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), which was seen as a means to achieve reforms both within economies and beyond borders.
“We are disappointed that progress of the pathways towards FTAAP– ratification in the case of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – has slowed,” said Raffo.
TPP is the US-led grouping of 12 Apec nations, excluding China, but whose ratification in America has stalled as a result of Trump’s election victory. The billionaire businessman had been scornful of the TPP during the campaign and vowed not to sign it.
Raffo said: ”We are, however, encouraged by the completion of the Apec Collective Strategy Study. It will position APEC to set some ambitious targets for FTAAP with a future timetable and further concrete actions.”
ABAC was created by Apec leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in the Asia Pacific region. The 2016 co-chairs are Hoang Van Dung and Doris Magsaysay-Ho, who chaired last year’s ABAC when Apec was hosted by Manila.
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