APEC member economies are drawing up a new regional connectivity blueprint to bring diverse markets, businesses and people closer together to facilitate trade and investment for delivering greater long-term growth across the Asia-Pacific.
Coordination between APEC Senior Officials, technical experts and the private sector to flush out the blueprint’s details was at the top of the agenda during working-level discussions over the past week in Qingdao. APEC Trade Ministers are deciding the next step as part of their two-day meeting which opened here on Saturday.
“The connectivity blueprint is a major deliverable of APEC 2014,” said Tan Jian, China’s APEC Senior Official who is currently administering the initiative. “The blueprint will guide our cross-cutting efforts to promote regional economic integration and encourage growth in the economy. It will also help us better understand where gaps lie and how best to address them.”
Emphasis is currently on the stocktaking of initiatives underway within and between APEC economies to address the region’s changing physical infrastructure needs and deeper institutional and people-to-people linkages. Inputs are also being gathered from regional and global organizations on what can be done to strengthen the implementation of these cross-cutting initiatives.
“This is a strategic undertaking that involves lots of moving parts and priorities,” said Dr Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit which is leading the connectivity blueprint’s preliminary fact-finding and analytical work. “It’s important that the physical and soft components of efforts to improve connectivity within the region complement and reinforce one another.”
“Well-defined targets, timeframes and review procedures are absolutely critical to the successful implementation of the blueprint and for the delivery of meaningful results,” added Dr Hew whose team is also responsible for proposing the methodology of tracking and benchmarking the progress of APEC policy commitments.
Together, APEC economies are striving to achieve a ten per cent improvement in supply chain performance by 2015, based on time, cost and uncertainty. The further simplification of customs and immigration procedures, harmonization of industry regulations and standards, and cutting of administrative costs for things like permits and shipping containers are moving this process along.
An APEC Multi-Year Plan on Infrastructure Development and Investment, to be implemented through 2016, is also breaking ground. Focus areas include the showcasing of public-private partnership infrastructure projects, recommendations for bankable PPP delivery, including legal and regulatory enhancements, and the establishment of new PPP centers to promote these arrangements.
“The integrated world we operate in today means that infrastructure in one economy, whether it be roads, ports and airports, or something like energy and information technology systems, is, in essence, part of a much larger whole,” noted Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “It’s important that gaps between diverse economies be addressed to keep everyone moving in a positive direction and maximize new trade opportunities.”
“The development of an APEC connectivity blueprint is proving to be a real eye opener in terms of identifying the scope of the region’s human capital requirements and how much further we need to go to facilitate trade flows and value-adding economic activity,” Dr Bollard concluded. “This is laying the groundwork to drive cross-border education and skills training, for example, and promotes greater productivity and innovation that will bring growth up to more desired levels.”
The APEC Ministers’ Responsible for Trade Meeting will conclude on Sunday.
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