World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Asia-Pacific Economies Find their Groove

Asia-Pacific Economies Find their Groove

APEC Leaders can build on the momentum during their upcoming annual meeting in Da Nang.

By Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.

Originally published in The Diplomat and Viet Nam News.

With the dust barely settled after the International Monetary Fund and World Bank raised hopes at their annual meetings in Washington, DC that a long-awaited growth revival is materializing, the global economy received more welcome news from the other side of the world affirming a turnaround.

During their weekend conclave in central Viet Nam’s historic port town of Hoi An, finance ministers from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member economies provided reassurance that forecasting aligns with the situation on the ground in the region significantly behind the renewed optimism.

In a departure from recent, less sanguine encounters, APEC finance ministers, whose diverse Pacific Rim economies account for 40 percent of the world’s population and 60 percent of its total GDP, offered a picture of easing downside risk, higher growth and an encouraging near-term outlook.

Economic confidence reinforced by favorable data assessments from within the region would suggest that the decade-long recovery from the global financial crisis has reached a legitimate turning point, market risks notwithstanding.

What is less clear is how long these conditions will persist and to what degree without some major structural changes that touch at the heart of what makes APEC an engine of the world economy and which its leaders will seek to address at their summit 30 kilometers from Hoi An, in Da Nang, next month.

What is driving the turnaround? A major factor is rebounding trade growth in the region after several years of uncharacteristic regression, boosted by consumption among the expanding ranks of the middle class in emerging markets such as China, Mexico and Vietnam.

Deeper integration of APEC economies has created linkages allowing core industries like agriculture, autos and energy, and the complex production and supply chains that support them and hundreds of millions of jobs all around the Asia-Pacific, to tap into new trade opportunities.

Workers and businesses in Korea, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and other advanced economies in APEC are likewise beneficiaries of these dynamics and the improvements in exports, economic growth and employment they have helped to deliver.

This progress is in no small part the product of sustained efforts to make trade easier, cheaper, faster and more robust in the region—from modernizing trade agreements and keeping restrictive measures in check to technical cooperation to ease barriers at and behind borders in an age of rapid digitalization.

Harmonizing data privacy standards to facilitate e-commerce, simplifying customs procedures for goods crossing borders through filing single windows and opening trade in services sectors like education, healthcare and tourism to meet burgeoning demand are just a few examples.

For economies in APEC and, by extension, the rest of the world, to maximize and sustain the return to growth, it is imperative that this unfinished work continues and goes further to empower those who are not feeling the benefits and raise genuine concerns about equality and fairness in the global economy.

Measures taken forward by finance ministers to enable infrastructure investment from the private sector to connect underserved parts of the region, and to expand financing access through improved credit information exchange and digital payment systems are a move in this direction.

So too are the reforms being advanced to jointly crack down on corporate tax loopholes that unfairly transfer costs to small businesses and the public, and to improve disaster risk financing and insurance to mitigate natural hazards that disproportionately threaten small scale producers and suppliers.

In Da Nang, leaders will have a chance to take important next steps in areas like digital trade and the development of internet economies that are connecting business partners and customers across borders in ways that were simply not possible in the past outside of the grasp of big international firms.

Alpaca product producers in the Peruvian Andes, coffee producers and processors in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and app developers in Ho Chi Minh City, Canberra, Cleveland and Kuala Lumpur are among the vast pool of next generation traders poised to take advantage of these expanding networks.

Leaders will meanwhile face the collective need to do more to help labor forces navigate market competition, automation and changes in demand, and bolster productivity. It brings to the fore actions like STEM education initiatives, skills training and retraining, and family leave and childcare programs.

This is new and potentially rocky territory for a multilateral arrangement like APEC to enter into, with adjustment schemes and safety nets traditionally the domain of domestic policymaking. But then again, the interconnectedness of today’s economies continues to turn conventional wisdom on its head.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Palestinian Ministry of Health: Developments In The Health Situation During The Israeli Aggression On The Cities & Governorates Of The Gaza Strip
For the second day in a row, the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip continues by targeting overcrowded residential areas and neighborhoods, as the death toll rose to 13 citizens, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman... More>>

UN: Horn Of Africa Faces Most ‘Catastrophic’ Food Insecurity In Decades, Warns WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday that the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst famines of the last 70 years... More>>

FAO: Warns 90 Per Cent Of Earth’s Topsoil At Risk By 2050
A full 90 per cent of the Earth’s precious topsoil is likely to be at risk by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO...

Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>

Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>