State of the Region



On behalf of the members of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), it is our pleasure to present our thirteenth annual report on the State of the Region. This year we have chosen to focus on the future of skills and work. In selecting this topic we were conscious that there are many issues confronting the Asia- Pacific, not least of which is the risks to the region from a trade war. At our General Meeting held in Jakarta in May 2018, the broad conclusion of the community of experts from business, government, the academe and civil society gathered there was on the increased importance of more not less international cooperation. These issues cannot be resolved solely by unilateral actions, they require cooperative solutions.

As we draw nearer to the end of the second decade of this millennium there are important questions on the future course of the global economy. History teaches us that the path towards progress is far from straight, as philosopher George Santayana has said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The last few decades have come with the single biggest reduction in poverty in the history of humankind – thanks to improvements in technology and the increased openness of our economies.

As much as technology and openness have enabled better lives – there are also risks involved. Absent domestic institutions and policies that facilitate the transition of workers into new jobs and encourage entrepreneurs the political consensus for openness will fray and undermine the very progress that has benefitted so many. As we see from the results of our annual survey the top risk to growth cited by the regional policy community was increased protectionism and trade wars. At the same time, rising trade tensions and the future of the WTO and multilateral trading system were seen as the top priority for APEC leaders to discuss this year. There is a clear and present risk that unless actions are taken now to resolve issues that have been allowed to fester for many years we will be condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past and fall into the traps that led to conflicts.

For this reason, we believe that there is need for a multipronged approach. We cannot resolve trade conflicts without also addressing the underlying anxiety that comes with rapid change – whether as a result of technological change or greater competition. In this report we seek to understand the future of work. It is an initial foray to better understand how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the nature of work.

We welcome the renewed emphasis on the importance of thinking about the multilateral trading system. While support for it has been a core objective for Asia-Pacific cooperation, it has ranked lowly in the list of priorities of the policy community since the failure to conclude the Doha Round. This year saw a reversal of that view. There is now an urgent need to consider the future of the system, how to improve its functioning and update the rules for 21st century commerce. Above all, we need to emphasize the importance of the WTO as an institution – not just its role as a negotiating forum but as the arbiter for trade disputes. There are many people we would like to thank for taking the time to help us to provide a gauge on the sentiments of the regional policy community: all of our member committees without whose support this work would not be possible; as well as the many expert groups who sent out the survey to their members, including: the APEC Policy Support Unit; the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade and Transport in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT); the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNET); the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, and the Papua New Guinea Committee on APEC Policy Issues (CAPI).

We thank Mr. Eduardo Pedrosa for coordinating this year’s report and for providing Chapter 1, Dr Kostas Mavromaras for contributing Chapter 2; Dr Chen Bo for his continued dedication to updating PECC’s index of economic integration in Chapter 3; as well as the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU); Mr Scott Price, Ms Lin Shiumei and Ms Kim Le from UPS; and Dr Wang Yan. We also acknowledge the financial support from Google for this year’s survey. We would also like to thank the editorial committee of this report who provide guidance and insight on the various issues it addresses as well as the staff of our International Secretariat for their work on this report.





Don Campbell

Su Ge

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