China plays extremely constructive role in APEC: APEC official

17:08, November 07, 2009      

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China has been an extremely constructive player and a great contributor in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a senior APEC official has said.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the eve of the upcoming APEC leaders' summit in Singapore, Michael Tay, the 17th Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, said that the present economic crisis has caused a shift of gravity toward the Asian side of the Pacific. The economies which are recovering the fastest are the most dynamic Asian economies, particularly China.

"With the biggest population in the world, China is also one of the most open economies in the world," he said. "Every year when the APEC meetings take place, you can see China being transformed. New zones were created to encourage more investments into China."

To weather the crisis, China has injected a very powerful stimulus package, which has created a momentum, he said, adding that China will have to step up and build up its own domestic economy so that there is more demand within the country.

"Whatever China does sets an example. It has proven to be a leader in this crisis. It can do a lot for the global economy," he said, "China's role in the next few years will increase rather than decrease," he added.

Commenting on China's role as an APEC member, he said that China has been a strong voice of moderation, which helps to bring up the issues and problems of developing economies within the APEC.

He said that the APEC has a group of highly developed economies as well as many developing economies which are trying to find their best models. He said that China has played a key role in balancing these two patterns of thinking.

Speaking on the key issues to be discussed at the upcoming APEC leaders' summit, he said that APEC leaders will have to look at what makes the APEC different, and what is APEC's role going to be in the evolving upturn.

"The leaders will talk about the state of the world, what is happening and whether the APEC is ready to address some of these issues directly or indirectly through the G20 or through the WTO."

Because of the economic downturn, there are people who have lost their jobs, economies have shrunk, the western developed economies are suffering and will take many years to recover.

APEC leaders will discuss "how economies could reposition themselves and grow again." There is now an issue of inclusive growth, which has to be strong, sustained and balanced, he said.

The problem that is faced by APEC businesses and companies is not really tariffs anymore, he said, "It is about none-tariff barriers. It's about behind the border regulations."

Singapore has been looking at issues like trade financing, facilitating trade and increasing connectivity within the region. These are very practical issues which will benefit business directly.

"Ultimately the APEC is about increase prosperity. To increase prosperity you must increase wealth, to increase wealth you need the business world to succeed."

He said that the leaders will also emphasize on capacity building. At the time when the economy is not growing as fast as it used to be, it is important to retrain people to make sure that they are prepared for the next upturn.

"I think what we are trying to do is to share experiences, to try to move differences closer. So that we have a reconverge on a more APEC wide model," he said.

Briefing on the preparation progress for the upcoming summit, he said that "everything is in place." Singapore is pulling all efforts to make sure that the transport, accommodation, security and conferencing will be managed. There will also be some new ideas such as "Dine around Singapore" and a musical evening to increase more networking opportunities for participants at the meetings.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the APEC. Talking about APEC's greatest contribution in the past, Tay said, the regional organization has played a very important role in pushing the envelope for free trade and resisting protectionism.

In 1994, economic leaders of the APEC set up the "Bogor Goals" to achieve free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. The industrialized economies are expected to achieve the goal no later than the year 2010 and developing economies no later than the year 2020.

"If you ask about whether the 'Bogor Goals' have been achieved now? I think more or less it has been. Because broadly speaking our trade has grown five times among the APEC economies, our GDP has tripled. By and large we have already moved a long way."

Talking about the call by APEC trade ministers in this July to conclude the Doha round by 2010, he said that there is no uncertainty about APEC's commitment about completing the Doha round, adding that the APEC has been one of the foremost advocates in increasing the number of Free Trade Agreements among its economies.

"The APEC has encouraged economies to look outwards, to state that when there is a downturn, we do not look inwards. In fact, we open our doors even bigger. And throughout these years, this is what the APEC has been doing."

Looking ahead, Tay said, he is very hopeful about the future of the APEC.

"Because among all the other regional organizations, I think the APEC is by far the most dynamic."

"For the next 20 years, I think we will see a process of evolution, which is good for the APEC. The APEC will grow to be a very strong regional organization," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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