President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday urged fellow member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to meet a self-imposed deadline five years from now for free and open trade and investments within the region.
“Nearly two decades since our last hosting, APEC returns to the Philippines in a milestone year for the world. This year, we are five years away from the Bogor goals of 2020…,” Aquino said at the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center.
He also reminded APEC of additional commitments that Pacific Rim leaders needed to consider, including the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, upcoming climate change talks in Paris, and the Bali Package agreed under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Bogor Goals, which were accepted by APEC leaders in 1994, sought to achieve free and open trade and investment in the region by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing members.
An assessment conducted as the first deadline was reached showed substantial progress by both industrialized and developing economies, but found that more work needed to be done with regard to meeting the 2020 goal.
The latest assessment made in 2014, meanwhile, declared: “In general, the analysis of the information shows that progress has been uneven across APEC economies and across areas.”
“It is clear that more work needs to be done. While several areas such as services, customs procedures (time to trade) government procurement, competition policy, regulatory reform, intellectual property rights and mobility of business people, among others, showed encouraging results since the previous assessment conducted in 2012, other traditional areas such as tariffs, non-tariff measures, standards and conformance and customs procedures (cost to trade) experienced very modest progress or setbacks.”
In the 2014 report, the Philippines was said to have made progress in a wide range of areas, but the assessment also noted that high tariffs remain for agriculture goods classified as sensitive and that several areas are still off-limits, or are restricted with regard to ownership stakes, to foreign investments.
In his speech, Aquino noted gains made in the Philippines under his administration and said that the country’s hosting of this year’s summit built on prior APEC achievement.
He told leaders that they had the duty to define what needed to be done with regard to meeting commitments, saying: “As regional economic integration continues to take form, APEC’s role – when viewed through the prism of inclusive growth—will be defined not only according to the future of economies but also of the people that drive economic growth.”
With regard to goals outside the 21-member forum, Aquino noted that the UN-sponsored Conference of Parties or COP21, set to start at the end of November in Paris, hoped to make a “lasting impact on climate change.”
The Bali agenda, meanwhile, will be pushed during the WTO ministerial conference in Nairobi, Kenya next month, he said.
Earlier, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said participation in initiatives such as the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asean-centric Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership and other bilateral and regional trade agreements would be building blocks in meeting APEC’s goals.
These, along with the Latin American trade bloc called the Pacific alliance, are proposed pathways to achieving the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, a study on which is due next year.
APEC’s 21 member economies —the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan; Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam —control half of world trade and account for 60 percent of the global economy.