APEC achieves great progress with challenges ahead: Australian expert

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-10-6 11:21:10

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has made extraordinary progress in the past decades, however there are still some major barriers need to be resolved and China's strong performance makes the region very economically resilient, an Australian expert on APEC studies told Xinhua in an interview, on the eve of the upcoming summit in Indonesia.

Great achievements since establishment

According to Ken Waller, the director of APEC study center in Melbourne's RMIT University, APEC has made many achievements since it was established in 1989.

First there had been a remarkable increase in interregional trade among APEC members.

"We had a strong growth of 8 percent per-annum for a decade or two decades in trade, goods and service in the region, and the average tariffs has come down sharply," said Waller.

The member economies have found more supply chains and more connectivity within the region, which got to the heart of economic relationships.

APEC established a pillar called trade facilitation, which means bringing barriers down and let everyone be able to compete within the domestic market, Waller told Xinhua, adding APEC spent a lot of time to understand what the those barriers were behind the border and how to remove them.

Secondly, APEC also focused on capacity building, the forum brought policy makers and regulators together and helped members better understand policies and practices, which is a "major contribution and is very successful," said Waller.

The last is regional economic integration, said Waller, noting it was a huge objective but the framework was in place and the arguments, the policies and ideas have been formulated to move towards that way.

China-major engine of regional growth

The forthcoming APEC summit is themed "Resilient Asia Pacific, Engine of Growth," which indicates that Asia-Pacific region remains the biggest driver of global growth when Europe still mired in its debt crisis.

When asked about what makes the Asia-Pacific region so economically resilient, Waller's answer is China.

"The reality is we have China in the region. Even the growth of China has been slow a little bit from 9 percent to 7.5 percent, it 's still a very big driver of growth in the region," he said.

Asia became quite resilient after the financial crisis of 1997, and the member economies have taken many measures and become more prudent and more competitive in the bad situation. There have been ups and downs between them, however as a region, they work together very hard, Waller said.

Strength, weakness of APEC

In Waller's view, APEC's strength lies in its diversity.

People from developing and developed economies, people with different structural challenges and different demographics come and sit together with common objectives of growth and relationship with each other, that is the strength, said the director.

He said that APEC's strength is also reflected in collaborating easily as a non-negotiating body, with member economies gathering to find common issues and try to resolve them.

He considered the speed at which things are made to happen one of the regional group's weaknesses, because the reform and restructuring would lead to remarkable major changes in economic outcomes in the region.

Some analysts have blamed the forum for the lack of commitment and considered it a major weakness, but Waller disagreed with the view and said countries in WTO could also have reservations whether to meet commitment even they had it.

"People with the same ideas come together, build momentum, get best practices and decide to implement them, how can you say it's a weakness?" said Waller.

Many obstacles, challenges ahead

On the obstacles to attaining the Bogor goal, Waller regarded as major obstacles some existing policy terms and concepts that some members still see themselves as separate sovereign economies, and consequent reluctance to readily open their markets to foreigners.

Some members are afraid that their economies will suffer and are less prepared to take the risk, so they continue to keep barriers rather than reduce them, that's the problem, the economist told Xinhua.

Waller said the developed economies accept that situation, saying there should be an understanding of transition, which usually comes with an agreement when someone reduces barriers, others also provide for compensation policies to help remove those barriers.

"There's a lot of evidence that if your object is to promote growth and employment, diversity and open economic structures will allow that to happen quicker and benefit will occur quickly," he said.

On the challenge facing the Asia-Pacific region, Waller said all economies need to get better quality of infrastructures, as more people come to the cities and cities are getting increasingly bigger.

"The economies have to work hard on how to accommodate the needs of city people as well as the rural people, but the challenges are increasing as people are drawing to urban areas for jobs and opportunities, we have to make these cities livable, that 's really the opinion of sustainable development," Waller said.

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