Apec must hold firmly on to its role as champion of economic globalisation

  • Zhang Jun says with the multilateral trading system now under threat amid the rise of protectionism, Apec must rise to the challenge to forge even closer cooperation. In this, it will have China’s full support
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 10:07am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 6:01pm

When the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum meet in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea this weekend, they will be doing so at a time when the global economic landscape is undergoing profound adjustment. Multilateralism and the multilateral trading system are being challenged, and Asia-Pacific economic cooperation is entering a critical stage.

Apec, which prospered on economic globalisation, is today a pacesetter of economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Openness and inclusiveness is its inherent and defining feature. Over the years, guided by the vision spelled out in the Bogor Goals, Apec has supported the multilateral trading system and taken independent and collective actions to promote trade and investment liberalisation in the region.

Today, the Asia-Pacific is the world’s most vibrant economic region with the greatest growth potential. Faced now with the backlash against globalisation and the rise of protectionism, the international community looks to Apec to continue to chart the course for economic cooperation, blaze a trail for economic development in the Asia-Pacific, and inject positive impetus into the world economy.

Apec must stay true to its founding mission. Over the past decades, Asia and the Pacific has been an important engine of global growth, with intra-regional trade growing faster than gross domestic product and accounting for a larger share in total trade than the world’s average. This is attributed to the commitment of Apec members to the principle of free trade and an open economy. The Port Moresby meeting must build on Apec’s fine tradition.

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Though challenging, such a role is important. In view of the differences among its members in economic maturity, Apec must try to build a framework of cooperation that benefits all, to facilitate not just trade and investment but also technical exchanges. Apec must play this coordinating role to deepen and expand regional cooperation.

To this end, the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific is a necessary step towards greater integration and serves the long-term interests of all parties. The upcoming meeting should introduce more concrete measures to facilitate its set-up.

Apec should also nurture the spirit of innovation and foster new drivers for growth. In recent years, Apec cooperation has gone beyond the traditional areas of trade and investment to cover connectivity, the digital economy and structural reforms. In view of the theme chosen for this year’s leaders’ meeting, “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Economy”, China hopes Apec will seize the historical opportunity of the technological and industrial revolution to deepen practical cooperation in such areas as the digital economy and establish an all-round, multidimensional connectivity network.

China has been a firm supporter of Apec. Since 2013, President Xi Jinping has attended the annual leaders’ meeting and will do so again this year.

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China has called for a future-oriented partnership in the spirit of mutual trust and win-win cooperation. It advocates the building of an open economy based on shared interests. and unequivocally opposes protectionism. More importantly, it has followed up its pledges with concrete action.

For one, it is committed to boosting Asia-Pacific development with its own growth. The Chinese economy is today deeply integrated into the Asia-Pacific: it is now the largest trading partner of 16 Apec economies, and 59 per cent of China’s total trade is with fellow Apec members. Domestically, China has accelerated institutional reform and innovation to offer a market-oriented, law-based, and world-class business environment. In the latest World Bank report on the ease of doing business, China’s ranking has moved up 32 places. A more open and prosperous China will present greater development opportunities to fellow Apec members.

China has also advanced regional cooperation on connectivity. It implemented the Apec Connectivity Blueprint, and is working to forge synergy through its Belt and Road Initiative. It has also initiated a sub-fund to provide support to Apec projects that promote connectivity.

It is deeply involved in various capacity-building efforts in a range of areas, including science and technology and the environment, to ensure that no member in the Apec family will be left behind by economic globalisation.

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Apec. We have good reason to believe that, guided by the principles of mutual respect, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, Apec’s prospects will be even brighter.

Zhang Jun is China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs