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RCEP Boosts Prospects for Trade Integration and Liberalization in the Asia-Pacific and Beyond

Eduardo Pedrosa
Secretary-General, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)

Christopher Findlay
Australian Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee (AUSPECC)
Honorary Professor, The Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (ANU)

 

The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on Sunday provided a much needed boost to the global trading system. It will create the largest single economic area in the history of the global economy, led by the ten ASEAN members plus its FTA trading partners it will cover a market of over 2.2 billion people, with a combined GDP of around US$26 trillion. Estimates suggest that benefits for RCEP members of around US$174 billion by 2030 according to numbers cited in PECC’s State of the Region Report this year.

The agreement has been 8 years in the making since ASEAN members agreed to the Framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2012. The agreement will consolidate ASEAN’s existing trade agreements with partners: Australia and New Zealand; China, Korea, and Japan. India which had previously been part of the negotiations left last year.

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Coherent Vision: How the Asia Pacific can drive sustainable and inclusive growth

Eduardo Pedrosa
Secretary-General, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC)

Christopher Findlay
Vice-chair, Australian Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee (AUSPECC)
Honorary professor, The Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (ANU)

 

Referred to in the past as “four adjectives in search of a noun”, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum over nearly three decades has focused on its goal of free and open trade and investment across the region by 2020. This fateful year, which turned out to be marked by the worst global economic crisis for generations, is nearly over, with APEC’s 21 member economies searching for a post-2020 vision. Eduardo Pedrosa, secretary general of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, and economist Christopher Findlay, argue that the pandemic and its devastating aftermath have given the grouping that purpose: to lay out a long-term strategic framework that sets a positive direction for reform and growth for regional governments and gives businesses the confidence to plan for the future.

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Multilateral Cooperation is a Safeguard against Pandemics

Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria
Executive Director, APEC Secretariat

 

Last month, G20 leaders released a statement advocating for a spirit of solidarity in the global response against COVID-19. In these dire times, it is a call that should be heeded well beyond their membership.

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Tackling COVID-19 Together: A Bottom-Up Approach to Trade Policy

Simon J. Evenett
Economics Professor at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and Global Trade Alert1

There is growing interest in the positive contribution trade policy could make in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. In part, this reflects the well-founded concern that the effectiveness of health policy responses is being diminished by existing trade barriers and new curbs on the export of medical supplies.


Well-founded—given the resort to trade restrictions on medical supplies and soap summarised here. As of 27 March 2020, 64 export curbs on medical supplies have been introduced by 60 governments since the beginning of the year. Forty-nine of those export curbs have been announced since the beginning of this month, an indication of just how quickly new trade limits are spreading across the globe.

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Growth in a Time of Change

Pamela Mar
Director of Sustainability
Fung Academy/ Fung Group

 

Insights: In Conversation With

Pamela Mar looks at how Asia's manufacturers can survive, and prosper, amidst changing markets and technological disruption.

Writer’s Note:

APEC officials were in Vietnam for the 2nd Senior Officials Meeting in preparation for the APEC Leaders’ summit to be held in Vietnam later this year. Connectivity was high on the agenda, as it is viewed as an essential driver for deepening regional economic integration, which is one of APEC’s four key priorities. APEC has launched a 2025 Connectivity Blueprint and is following this up with mid-term goals for 2020.

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Why Connectivity is a Starting Point for Real Change

Pamela Mar
Director of Sustainability
Fung Academy/ Fung Group

 

Insights: In Conversation With

Pamela Mar outlines the challenges faced by Asia's production centers in a world where connectivity has become more critical.

Writer’s Note:

APEC officials were in Vietnam for the 2nd Senior Officials Meeting in preparation for the APEC Leaders’ summit to be held in Vietnam later this year. Connectivity was high on the agenda, as it is viewed as an essential driver for deepening regional economic integration, which is one of APEC’s four key priorities. APEC has launched a 2025 Connectivity Blueprint and is following this up with mid-term goals for 2020.

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APEC at 25: Relevance for the future global system

Jusuf Wanandi
Co-Chair Pacific Economic Cooperation Council


The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. This milestone presents a chance for reflection on achievements as well as the future. Although most think of APEC in terms of the Bogor Goals of free trade and investment, these were the chosen means to an end — that end being “accelerated, balanced and equitable economic growth not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but throughout the world as well”.

Since 1989, the average income in the region has tripled from around US$5,000 to above $15,000. Asia- Pacific is now the world’s strongest growth center. The non-OECD economies of Asia-Pacific, notably China, have evolved into great traders. Asia-Pacific has also caught up very fast in the origination and hosting of the cross-border flows of capital and people. More importantly, the number of people living on less than $2 a day in the region has dropped from close to 1.2 billion to 412 million.

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India into APEC: Three APEC reasons why

Malcolm Cook
Senior Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies


If Indian Prime Minister Modi accepts Chinese President Xi’s surprise (to the other members of APEC and to India) invitation to attend the APEC Leaders Meeting in Beijing in November, it will bring India closer to its twenty-year goal of becoming an APEC member economy. In 2005, I supported the  continued thwarting of this Indian aspiration for what I thought were sound, APEC-based reasons. (http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/how-save-apec)

Nine years on, the regional trade diplomacy picture has fundamentally changed while APEC has not. The Doha Round’s continuing comatose state has underpinned a continuing proliferation of bilateral preferential trade deals and an attempt at an Asia-Pacific regional trade deal (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and an ASEAN-based, East Asian one (The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

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India and APEC: Not Yet There, But Getting Closer

Amitendu Palit
Head (Partnerships & Programmes) and Senior Research Fellow
The Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS)


India is not a member of the APEC notwithstanding its long history of cultural and commercial exchanges with several APEC members. While this might seem odd, the absence is not difficult to explain.

India was hardly a blip on the region’s radar when the ‘flying geese’ began fanning their wings after the 2nd World War, drawing struggling economies with colonial pasts into a well-knitted architecture of explosive export growth combining cheap labour, embodied technology and disciplined organization practices. India’s inward-looking defensive trade policy, coupled with commitment to non-alignment and ideological discomfort with laissez faire and open trade policies, ensured its distance from the APEC remained far and unbridgeable.

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Insight: APEC: They came, they saw, they…?

Eduardo Pedrosa
Secretary General, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council

The APEC leaders’ meeting in Bali is over. The week-long series of events were but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the APEC process. APEC is an institutionalized process with thousands of experts attending more than 100 meetings, all competing for a mention in the leaders’ statement.

Each year, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) conducts a survey on what opinion leaders think the priorities should be from a list of 30.

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Take Best Advantage of APEC for the Asia Pacific Integration

Ippei Yamazawa
Professor Emeritus, Hitotsubashi University, Japan

This year Indonesian host has tried to highlight the Bogor Goals so that we have been invited to report directly our IAP review study at Committee for Trade and Investment (CTI) Workshop in Medan, ABAC3 in Kyoto, and ASCC in Jakarta, that is all tripartite stakeholders , officials, business, and academics in July. By and large our report was welcomed and mentioned in the recommendation letters by the last two to the APEC Leaders.

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Who will write the rules for Asia-Pacific Trade?

Peter A. Petri
Non-resident Senior Fellow with the East-West Center
Professor of International Finance at Brandeis University

Republished from the East West Center

(This analysis originally appeared in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Oct. 16, 2011 as part of a monthly series on regional Asia Pacific issues leading up to the APEC leaders’ meetings in Honolulu in November)

In the last half century, world trade has grown twice as fast as output and helped to lift the majority of the world’s people from poverty—a feat unimaginable a generation ago. When APEC leaders meet in Honolulu next month, they will represent countries that account for half of world trade. Can APEC help to keep the engine humming for another half century?

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