Growth in the Asia-Pacific region is still generally at respectable levels but the falloff in trade and lower productivity continue to leave their mark, according to APEC Secretariat Executive Director Alan Bollard.
“This is prompting policymakers to adapt to major structural changes underway in the region to unlock new sources of growth that benefit more people and improve the outlook for the global economy,” Bollard said in remarks in Wellington, a copy of which was obtained in Manila, ahead of a pair of key regional policy gatherings: the APEC Telecommunications and Information Ministerial Meeting and the 2015 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting.
Bollard described paths for reviving sluggish trade and productivity, and moving toward more inclusive, sustainable economies.
“Without greater action on the part of governments to keep pace with structural changes that are redefining the economic landscape and people’s lives, there is a real possibility that today’s ‘new normal’ could turn out to be a much longer proposition than anyone would like. The effect of an extended moderation of Asia-Pacific growth on the global economy would be significant but it is not inevitable,” he said.
“As middle-income populations in the Asia-Pacific increase and become more urbanized, new opportunities are opening up for the producers of value-added goods and services to capitalize on rising domestic demand,” he added.
“The move towards more open, integrated economies that facilitate trade and investment is obviously necessary, but to get the new growth in jobs, incomes and sustainability that everybody is looking for, it is a dynamic that has to work in a fluid and inclusive way,” Bollard explained.
Telecommunications and Information Ministers from the 21 APEC member economies, to convene on March 30-31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will deepen policy cooperation to boost the development, access and ‘smart’ use of innovations within the sector to cater to higher consumer demand while empowering businesses and governments to keep up with changes in how people consume and live their lives.
“We’re starting to see new technologies play a larger role in businesses and traditionally low cost labor economies moving to get higher tech, more research and development, more innovation, more focus on raising productivity,” Bollard noted. “As the application of tools like broadband and e-commerce, e-distribution channels and data management is taken to the next level, it creates space for development and growth that benefits a lot more people.”
“Small firms that account for most businesses and employment in Asia-Pacific economies, women entrepreneurs and young people just entering the workforce are all key to unlocking next generation growth,” he continued. “Delivering the means for new or traditionally underrepresented segments of the region’s economies to play a more significant role, particularly within cross-border trade and supply chains, must be a priority.”
Trade Ministers, who are slated to meet in Boracay on 23-24 May, will take greater steps to allow goods, services, people and capital to move more cheaply, efficiently and securely across borders and widen trade participation. Emphasis will also be put on strengthening environmental protection and sectors that promote green growth, and further positioning all corners of the region’s economies to evolve and thrive through the coming decades.
“As populations all across the Asia-Pacific age and labor forces shrink, the need to mobilize economies in alternative ways, taking into consideration the effects on work patterns, employment, productivity, skills and migration, will rise,” Bollard concluded. “Demographic changes will have a significant effect on socio-economic priorities and the kinds of goods and services that will be in demand. Economies need to be ready, resilient and resourceful.”