APEC officials look to boost region-wide economic growth

07:23, February 24, 2010      

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Senior officials from the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreed in principle on Tuesday that efforts to seek "possible pathways" to a region-wide free trade zone needed to be accelerated but fell short of reaching any consensus except to continue necessary work.

Tuesday's conclusion of the two-day meeting in Hiroshima, which saw Japan formally assume its chairmanship of the APEC forum for 2010, was that further discussions on developing strategies to ensure economic growth in the 21 APEC regions were necessary, ahead of an annual summit to be held in Yokohama, Japan in November.

"We still have a long way to go but were able to make a good start," a senior Japanese delegate was quoted by local media as saying after the meeting.

APEC shares the view that promoting business investments in such areas as environmental protection and energy conservation would lead to sustainable economic growth and the creation of employment within the region, another Japanese official said following Monday's discussions in Hiroshima.

Quantifying and qualifying the relative success of the developed members of APEC's achieving of the Bogor Goals of trade and investment liberalization, within the region, is now a key focal point for Japan as it chairs ongoing ministerial meetings this year, which are centered on preparatory dialogues leading to APEC leaders issuing their annual joint statement in November this year.

The Bogor Goals, named after the Indonesian city where APEC leaders reached the agreement in 1994, set liberalization targets for developed members by 2010 and for less-developed members by 2020.

However, sources indicated on Tuesday that the two-day meeting failed to end on a consensual note as some delegates believe that APEC is too vast an economic bloc to agree on a single opinion that represents all concerned, and uncertainty remains as to the pace at which a Free Trade Area in the Asia-Pacific region (FTAAP), can be established.

Japan is scheduled to host a series of talks in 2010 including a meeting of trade ministers in June in Hokkaido to review trade and investment liberalization targets of the developed members comprising: Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.

Thereafter a contingent of finance ministers will gather in Kyoto in November, and then trade and foreign ministers will assemble at the APEC summit in November to issue a joint-member statement, as well as clarifying liberalization goals for the 10 less-developed members.

In addition, Japanese delegates revealed to media sources in Hiroshima on Tuesday that Japan, under its new chairmanship, will also be supervising the compilation of a growth strategy for APEC as a whole, saying that economic growth in the region after the global recession must be more "balanced, sustainable, inclusive and knowledge-based."

Source: Xinhua
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