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UN meeting on Asia-Pacific mulls 2-track approach

UN meeting on Asia-Pacific mulls two-track approach for regional development

A major United Nations meeting on the Asia-Pacific region today discussed a two-track approach to cooperation focusing on both cross-border infrastructure development, such as highways and railways, and infrastructure investment like bonds and a development bank.

Two existing initiatives are already underway - the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway, a system of new or upgraded roads, track, bridges and tunnels facilitating trade and tourism both within Asia and between Asia and Europe.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, adopted at the 60th of the session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Shanghai, came into force last July.

The current 62nd session meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, is expected to adopt the Trans-Asian Railway Agreement tomorrow, its closing day, 12 April. It will open for signature during the Ministerial Conference on Transport to be held in November.

“These two major developments are putting into place the basic building blocks for an integrated international intermodal transport network that will enhance the region’s integration into the world’s economy,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su said.

The ministers and high-level officials from over 50 countries agreed that more studies will be done to examine other ideas such as an Asian Bond Fund and strengthening the mandate of Asian Development Bank to give higher priority to infrastructure financing.

Pacific island leaders called for greater support to the sub-region’s development efforts in such areas as employment, sustainable development; economic infrastructure, and trade, investment and tourism.

“Fisheries, a $2 billion a year industry in the Pacific, is one area where the Pacific would like to see higher returns than the 5-8 per cent being received,” President Anote Tong of Kiribati said.

Headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, ESCAP is the largest of the UN’s five Regional Commissions in terms of population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, it aims to promote economic activity and social progress in developing countries throughout the area.

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