APEC Summit to focus on reducing economic development gap

08:51, November 11, 2010      

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The 18th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit will focus more on economy connectivity within and beyond the Asian region, instead of non- traditional issues like trans-border crimes and security measures.

Michael Yeoh, chief executive officer of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) of Malaysia, a leading independent economy thinktank, made the remarks here on Wednesday in an interview with Xinhua.

Although non-traditional issues were discussed in previous meetings due to sluggish global economy recovery, Yeoh said he expected the coming APEC Summit to be a less controversial meeting despite the recent tension between certain countries.

As many predicted that one of the top agendas to be discussed in Yokohama, Japan, would be the call for the appreciation of renminbi, the Chinese currency, Yeoh said this was unlikely to happen.

He said that Malaysia, like the rest of ASEAN and Asian countries, had always been supportive of China's policies and any disputes surrounding its currency were unlikely to be raised at the summit.

"I do not think the U.S. should, at any time, apply pressure on China. China is a major player, and has just announced a very large fund to South East Asia to develop infrastructure.

"And the infrastructure fund for ASEAN is a major demonstration that China wants to promote infrastructure development and connectivity with ASEAN," said Yeoh, reiterating that Malaysia is supportive of China's position.

Yeoh believed that most of the countries in South East Asia would follow China's position on its currency.

"None of us wants China to appreciate the renminbi too quickly. I do not think we are going to see that a major issue in APEC Summit," said Yeoh.

He also stressed that China must be allowed time to resolve its own challenges and issues.

Themed "Change and Action," the 18th APEC Summit will be held from Nov. 13 to Nov. 14, preceded by the APEC Ministerial Meeting on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 and APEC Concluding Senior Officials Meeting on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.

While uncertainties may heighten the volatility in the global economy, the 21 members of APEC have to seek solutions to various challenges.

The "Singapore Declaration" adopted on Nov. 15, 2009, saw APEC leaders pledging a free and open trade and investment, but many countries could not open their economies fast enough to allow foreign investments.

Yeoh attributed this to the economic gap between developed countries and poorer nations, saying that the opening up of economy must be on a progressive basis to avoid disruption on the less developed countries.

He said this is a step-by-step process that is expected to be improved via the upcoming APEC summit.

Meanwhile, Yeoh said the integration of APEC was becoming more ASEAN centric in the sense that ASEAN was in the driver's seat to promote regionalism.

While the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into full implementation this year, Yeoh noted that there would also be India-ASEAN FTA, South Korea-ASEAN FTA and Japan-ASEAN FTA.

"Once all of these are put in place we will see the development of an East Asia FTA which could be part of a building block towards getting all of APEC together," said Yeoh.

As several APEC countries were already negotiating with each other on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Yeoh said the TPP could be one way to promote the open regionalism within APEC.

"ASEAN and China is one building block. East Asia regionalism and the TPP are another two building blocks. Once all these building blocks are in place, eventually we will have an APEC that is integrated and one open economy," said Yeoh.

Malaysia was recently invited by the U.S. to join the TPP talks. Yeoh said the TPP would ensure that Malaysia was on the same playing field as other participating countries like Singapore, Vietnam and New Zealand.

"It is hoped to open up the U.S. economy for Malaysia. This is important because the U.S. is a large trading partner to Malaysia. It enables us to have access to other countries that are part of the process as well," said Yeoh.

Source: Xinhua


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