APEC Senior Officials have reached an agreement on an Investment Facilitation Action Plan (IFAP) 2008-2010, designed to reduce trade barriers to international investors and encourage investment in the Asia-Pacific. Specifically, the plan comprises a framework of investment facilitation principles to guide the collective actions of APEC member economies key areas affecting investment flows.
As a complement to the IFAP, a number of actions will be taken to improve the investment climate over the next three years. As an example, transaction costs are to be reduced by a further five percent and should ultimately lead to the effective abolishment of costs altogether.
While the adoption of the IFAP was relatively swift, other plans require greater preparatory inputs. This is true of the development of a free trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific region (FTAAP).
Plans for the FTAAP have reached a mid-term point, says Chair of the Senior Officials' Meeting, Gonzalo Gutierrez. "It is still on the table. There are still studies being done, consultations with experts. Imagine that it took about two years for Peru to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States. And now we are trying to coordinate FTAs among 21 different economies."
Yet, he says, this point is pivotal in the process - the first step in a process that is expected to lead to a region-wide agreement and which would be the first such agreement to cover such an expansive area. "Now that we have determined the commonalities and disparities among existing free trade agreements, we can consider how best to overcome challenges and leverage on the opportunities within them."
The FTAAP will be affected by the outcomes of Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). These will be addressed by WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy on Saturday at the meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade.
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