Follow through on trade deals, Apec chiefs urged
US TRADE Representative Michael Froman has urged trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member-economies to follow through on the different global trade agreements and the crucial efforts being made to set a new agenda, all aimed at securing sustainable and inclusive growth across the region.
While citing the Philippines’ significant contribution and leadership in steering the Apec meetings toward current challenges faced by the region, Froman stressed the need to “stay the course and maintain progress toward creating greater opportunity for our people.”
“The Trade Facilitation Agreement, the Information Technology Agreement, and the Environmental Goods Agreement all started at Apec, and Apec economies have a responsibility for driving their conclusion,” Froman said at the Apec Ministerial Meeting in Manila.
“With regard to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, half the Apec economies have yet to ratify the agreement. On the Information Technology Agreement, we can all work together to finalize the tariff staging arrangement. On the Environmental Goods Agreement, I hope first we can all meet our obligations agreed to by our leaders, to cut our tariffs below 5 percent by the end of the year on a list of goods, but also work together at the World Trade Organization—those of us who are involved there—to agree on the scope of coverage on that agreement as well,” he explained.
The TFA formed part of the Bali Package adopted by the WTO members at the 9th ministerial conference held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013. Trade facilitation refers to issues on cutting red tape and streamlining customs and port procedures, among other initiatives.
Thus, the agreement is seen to create a significant opportunity to further improve the speed and efficiency of border procedures, and consequently, ease the non-tariff barriers and enable the smaller enterprises to tap growing opportunities of regional and global trade.
Last July, WTO members agreed to eliminate the tariffs on 201 information technology products, whose trade was valued at over $1.3 trillion a year. This landmark agreement is expected to significantly benefit major IT product exporters, as it would support lower prices, create jobs, and help boost economic growth globally, according to the WTO.
Froman also cited the progress made by the Philippines with regards to the agenda of the micro, small and medium sized enterprises towards enabling them to significantly participate in the global value chains and international trade; the improvement of supply chain management by 10 percent; roadmap for electric vehicles; principles for advertising standards; agenda for structural reform; and on the efforts to improve the ease of doing business.
“It’s been a very productive year under the leadership of the Philippines. And looking ahead, we welcome the efforts being made to set a new agenda, including on digital trade and avoiding new forms of protectionism, and on the framework on services—which many of the del egates have already spoken about in terms of its importance to all of our economies,” Froman noted.
“I would also like to mention humanitarian goods. I hope we can reach a consensus on the Apec principles for eliminating tariffs and speeding the delivery of humanitarian goods in the context of disasters. As well as building on the agreement last year on intellectual property rights, where we all agreed to share best practices on trade secrets. I think we can build a consensus around the work that’s been done on that as well,” he explained.
Froman concluded: “Let me conclude by just mentioning Trans Pacific Partnership Agreements, as many others have, in thanking my fellow ministers for their dedication and their efforts to bring that to a close. We welcome the interest of other economies in that process. We do very much view it as an important building block towards the free trade agreement of the Asia-Pacific, along with other bilateral, trilateral, and regional arrangements.”
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