Free trade, growth strategy dominate Yokohama APEC gathering

17:06, November 08, 2010      

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Beset by the uneven pace of recovery, soaring public debt and trade protectionism, 21 Pacific Rim economies are starting a week of meetings in the Japanese port city of Yokohama to build on progress made in exploring possible pathways to a regionwide free trade area and formulate a strategy for regional sustainable economic growth.

Two decades after its inception, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which aims to boost regional economic integration, has grown into one of the most influential and dynamic economic cooperation mechanisms globally.

This year, host Japan has presented "Change and Action" as the theme for APEC 2010, as changing global circumstances make it imperative to identify the necessary "changes" and translate them into concrete "actions."

Discussions in Yokohama are expected to focus on assessing the achievement of the Bogor Goals, setting the future direction for regional economic integration, and formulating a regional growth strategy.


APEC has worked actively on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. In 1994, in Bogor, Indonesia, APEC leaders set the goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia- Pacific region by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.

This year marks a significant milestone for APEC as it is the target year for the industrialized economies to achieve their self- imposed goal of free and open trade and investment.

At a June APEC meeting of ministers responsible for trade in Sapporo, Japan, ministers discussed the assessment report on the achievement of the Bogor Goals by five developed economies subject to assessment and eight developing economies that volunteered to participate, including South Korea, Singapore and China's Hong Kong. The result of assessment will be confirmed at the APEC ministerial meeting in Yokohama.

Among the existing multilateral frameworks, the ASEAN Plus Three free trade area, which accounts for 20 percent of the world' s economic output and more than 30 percent of the global trade volume, is the most mature in the region. There's also talk of the ASEAN plus six, which brings in India, Australia and New Zealand, and a trans-Pacific free-trade agreement.

Japanese news reports have said the Yokohama summit is expected to present possible pathways toward the so-called Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific in the final declaration.

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