Apec must lead the march for inclusive and sustainable growth
Zhang Jun says while Asia and the Pacific on the whole has benefited greatly from globalisation, the gains have not reached everyone. As a model of effective cooperation, Apec is best placed to address this lopsided development
When Asia-Pacific leaders meet at the 25th Apec summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Friday and Saturday, enhancing the inclusiveness of development will top the agenda.
At the Apec CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, last November, President Xi Jinping underlined the duality of economic globalisation: on the one hand, it is an engine for global economic growth, but on the other, it creates new problems and challenges. Xi called on all member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to address injustices and inequities, and work for a more invigorated, inclusive and sustainable economic globalisation, to boost people’s well-being.
While addressing the World Economic Forum earlier this year in Davos, Xi said it was not justifiable to write off economic globalisation just because it has engendered some new problems. He called on economies to leverage the advantages of globalisation and cushion its negative impact, to ensure benefits for all.
Globalisation as we know it is at a crossroads. Xi’s in-depth thinking on the patterns of globalisation point to a direction for the future.
The Asia-Pacific today represents the most dynamic region of the global economy. Founded at the time when economic globalisation was thriving, Apec has become the most important economic cooperation mechanism in the region.
Over the past few decades, its development has been closely connected with economic globalisation. As the pioneers and champions of regional economic cooperation, Apec member economies are both responsible for and capable of exploring better ways to promote inclusive growth.
Apec should actively practise inclusiveness. After all, diversity is Apec’s defining feature, as it gathers together both developed and developing economies in the region, coming from north and south, east and west.
For a long time, Apec member economies have honoured the “spirit of community” by seeking growth from both trade and investment liberalisation, and economic and technical cooperation, while holding to the principle of voluntary participation and consensus through consultation. By so doing, Apec has gradually narrowed the development gap, and set a fine example of economies at varying levels of development working together to advance economic integration.
The 2014 Apec summit in Beijing identified the Asia-Pacific partnership of mutual respect, trust and win-win cooperation as vital.
Consensus should be translated into action. Member economies should act on the principle of inclusiveness and shared benefits, addressing the special needs of the developing economies among them and creating an enabling environment for their participation in regional cooperation.
Openness and development are inevitably the future, with trade and investment acting as a driving force for economic growth, which will in turn reinforce the material foundation for inclusive growth.
Apec will continue to encourage greater connectivity as an effective instrument to break through development bottlenecks and achieve inclusive growth.
Member economies should fully implement the Apec connectivity blueprint, which promotes physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity. In particular, the plan aims to strengthen infrastructure investment and development in underdeveloped and remote areas, to enable people in those areas to take part in regional trade and investment, and share the benefits delivered by economic gain.
This year, Apec crafted a road map for the internet and digital economy, which proposes to strengthen cooperation, upgrade the digital infrastructure in the region to further boost connectivity, and bridge the digital divide and deliver the gains of technological advances to more people.
Efforts will be made to explore new areas of cooperation. In 2014, Apec leaders endorsed the Apec Accord on Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth, which identified “inclusive support” as one of five pillars for promoting innovative development.
Apec has also formulated an education strategy, aimed at creating by 2030 a strong and cohesive education community characterised by inclusive and quality education. With its action plan in place this year, member economies will engage in closer education cooperation in the region, to enhance competency, accelerate innovation and increase employability.
Last year, the Apec High-Level Urbanisation Forum was held in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, where member economies conducted in-depth dialogue on how to promote sound, sustainable and people-oriented urbanisation. Member economies also reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen an Asia-Pacific urbanisation partnership to narrow the urban-rural development gap and promote inclusive growth in the region.
As the largest developing economy in the world, China is an active advocate and practitioner of inclusive growth. In the report delivered at the 19th Communist Party congress, Xi said the principal contradiction in China is between the country’s unbalanced and inadequate development on the one hand, and people’s growing needs for a better life on the other. The president pledged that China would adhere to the philosophy of people-centred development, promoting holistic growth for the prosperity of all. This underlines China’s determination to practise inclusive development.
China’s commitment to inclusive development in fact extends beyond its borders. Through the “Belt and Road Initiative”, Beijing hopes to build an effective cooperation platform for development alongside other economies.
Leaders back Xi’s globalisation strategy at the belt and road forum in 2017
In light of the principles of joint consultation and construction, member economies should synergise their development strategies to achieve economic integration, interconnected development and shared benefits. The implementation of various belt and road projects will boost this regional push for inclusive development.
Acting in the spirit of partnership and sticking closely to the theme of this year’s Apec meeting of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future”, China stands ready to have in-depth discussions with other member economies on eradicating poverty, improving financial inclusiveness and promoting social equity, to work out an action plan and contribute to building an inclusive Asia-Pacific community.
Zhang Jun is the director general of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China