APEC ministers pledge free trade

Monday, May 22, 2017 08:45

View of the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible For Trade (APEC MRT 23) in Ha Noi. - VNA Photo Nguyen Khang

Trade representatives of the 21 Pacific Rim countries, meeting this weekend in Ha Noi, reaffirmed their commitment to support free and open trade and pledged to fight all forms of protectionism.

The trade representatives agreed to make concrete actions to foster the leading role of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in promoting global economic growth and regional economic integration for the benefits of people.

Taking into account the diverse opinions at the meeting, APEC member economies underscored the importance of ensuring the effective functioning of a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory multilateral trading system as embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“We reaffirm the importance of the WTO’s trade monitoring work, which is essential to the functioning of the multilateral trading system, by achieving greater transparency in, and understanding of the trade policies and practices of members,” the closing statement of the two-day meeting said.

As chair of the meeting, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said Viet Nam, as host of APEC 2017 events, "continues to affirm its determination of deepening international integration, considering the Asia-Pacific region and the regional co-operation mechanism such as APEC Forum a focus of the country’s foreign policy.”

Viet Nam’s support for APEC and open trade was endorsed by the country’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as he addressed the meeting on the first day.

“APEC should step up economic and technical co-operation, experience and information sharing during the process of policy-making and implementation of cooperation programmes to enhance the effectiveness and distinguish APEC co-operation from that of the other organizations and forums in the region and the world,” PM Phuc said.

He also called on member economies to unite and build trust, political determination and co-ordination to ensure a peaceful environment and security to safeguard the safety for investment and the flows of goods in the region.

Fighting protectionism

The meeting agreed the global economy is gaining momentum but noted risks, such as tighter global financial conditions and weak productivity that continue to drag on sustainable and inclusive growth.

Moreover, in some member economies there are growing doubt about the benefits of globalisation and free trade, spurring protectionist trends that could have strong impacts on global economic recovery and integration, the statement said.

“We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism by reaffirming our pledge against protectionism through a standstill commitment that we agreed to extend until the end of 2020 and to roll back protectionist and trade-distorting measures,” the statement of the chair said.

Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shou Wen said China committed to supporting a global multilateral trade system and making joint efforts to prevent protectionism and reducing trade risk.

“China attaches importance to trade growth… We think multilateral trading system is a very effective tool to mitigate risks associated with trade,” Wang said.

With a combined population of over 2.8 billion people, about 40 per cent of the world population, APEC member economies have significantly expanded and account for roughly 60 per cent of the world GDP and 49 per cent of global trade.

Of note, the average regional tariff has been reduced from 17 per cent since its inception in 1989 to 5.5 per cent in 2016, as incomes and living standards have been improved for a large proportion of the region’s population.

Viet Nam officially joined APEC in 1998. Since then, APEC has played an increasingly important role in the country’s economic development.

APEC member economies have contributed about 78 per cent of the total FDI inflows to Viet Nam, 75 per cent of total merchandise trade and 79 per cent of the total number of tourists to the country. Additionally, 13 APEC members have become Viet Nam’s strategic and comprehensive partners. – VNS

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