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Issued by The APEC Business Advisory Council

With the global economy in a precarious state, recommendations to APEC Leaders come at a most judicious point in time.

Mr. Juan F. Raffo, Chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), a group comprising some of the most successful and widely recognised names in private business, had an audience with President Alan Garcia today in Lima, Peru.

In an advance session, ABAC revealed the specific set of recommendations which address issues including:

The global credit contraction, sparked by the sub-prime mortgage crisis and write-downs by various international banks: Regulation should be activity-based and achieved through informal collaboration among regulatory bodies, within and across APEC Economies.

Acceleration of Regional Economic Integration (REI): APEC Ministers should accelerate work on a Free Trade Area for the Asia Pacific by completing REI studies and exploring all options to achieve the free flow of goods, services, labour and capital within the region.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Micro-Enterprise Development: Governments should establish various forms of social and financial support in the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT); introduce intellectual property protection programmes and encourage the use of evolving new technologies.

Response to food supply and prices: APEC should renounce the use of embargoes and other export restrictions as a means of addressing perceived food shortages.

Mitigation of climate change: In order to more aggressively pursue energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, each APEC economy should formulate specific goals and action plans. A peer review mechanism should be established to monitor progress.

Because APEC goals are economic in nature, input from ABAC is a critical consideration of APEC policy-makers. These and other recommendations will be formally issued to APEC Economic Leaders.

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APEC Senior Officials met from 2-3 March in Lima to agree on APEC's work agenda for 2008. Topics of discussion included WTO negotiations and regional economic integration.

Supporting the multilateral trading system remains the highest priority for APEC Economies. APEC Senior Officials noted the recent positive development in the Doha Round and committed to work towards an ambitious and balanced outcome that delivers real commercial gains.

APEC Senior Officials reaffirmed the importance of the role the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) has played in promoting trade, investment, and economic growth in APEC economies over the last ten years. Senior Officials also expressed concern about products covered by the ITA that may no longer be receiving duty free treatment in some key markets because of their technological innovations. They expressed further concern that these recent developments will undermine the ITA, and agreed to work together to ensure that the integrity and original spirit of the ITA is maintained.

Officials agreed on a plan to implement the recommendations of a report on regional economic integration, endorsed by APEC Economic Leaders in 2007, including practical and incremental steps to explore a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

It was agreed that APEC should play a role in the work on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the region. To this end, CSR is to be incorporated into APEC's broader agenda of improving the business environment and economic prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. Addressing issues of structural reform and reducing behind-the-border impediments will also be a focus of APEC's work this year. Senior Officials also discussed issues of anti-corruption and counter-terrorism.

Senior Officials agreed to the arrangements for the establishment of a Policy Support Unit within the APEC Secretariat and explored the issues related to the recruitment of a fixed-term APEC Executive Director.

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Issued by the APEC Secretariat

Hong Kong, China has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the APEC Secretariat for the donation of US$ 500,000 toward the Second Trade Facilitation Plan (TFAP II).

APEC's second TFAP calls for a reduction of trade transaction costs by 5 percent on the part of all member economies by 2010.

Signed by Joseph Lai, Director-General of Trade and Industry and Ambassador Juan Carlos Capuñay, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, the MOU earmarks funds for capacity building activities through the APEC Support Fund (ASF). The ASF provides a flexible funding mechanism to support capacity building activities for APEC developing economies.

Capuñay explains that economic impacts on the business community are enhanced through collective actions. Capacity building efforts are therefore intended to equip developing member economies to enter into collaborative efforts to address trade-related issues.

The donation reflects the importance attached to the Action Plan and to the recognition that capacity building is integral to its success. Says Lai. "We hope that our support for the plan will encourage other member economies."

The TFAP II emphasizes issues of customs procedure, business mobility, standards conformance and electronic commerce. To the same degree that it emphasizes the benefits of collective action, the plan also allows Member Economies to initiate and implement activities and measures as and when they are ready to do so.

Since the ASF was established in 2005, donations from other economies have funded a number of projects is areas such as human resource development and human security.

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Issued by the Telecommunications and Information Working Group

APEC Ministers prepare to meet in Bangkok, later this week (23 - 25 April 2008) to address challenges in telecommunications and information.

With free trade and investment as goal, the swift flow of information between economies is critical. To this end, APEC has already tripled internet access since 2000.

Nonetheless, access and expertise still varies between economies and Ministers have determined to reduce these disparities.

Explains Mr. Worapat Tiewthanom, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Thailand, "Universal access will maximize opportunities for trade and investment; this will have a positive effect on both macro- and micro-economies."

Access to the internet enables small to medium enterprises to participate in a global forum, expanding their range of business opportunities exponentially.

This year, APEC has incorporated a social dimension to its agenda and this will be a significant element in this week's talks. For example, better and more consistent regional infrastructure may be used as a vehicle to address long-term challenges, such as climate change.

Offers Dr. Arnon Tubtiang, APEC Working Group Chair:

"It's quite an interesting dynamic: in a global context, prosperity - and even survival - depends on the ability to exchange knowledge and to make progress toward shared goals. So it is imperative that regional telecommunications be efficient, consistent and coordinated."

Key issues of discussion among Ministers this week will include: reliable technical infrastructures; universal access; ICT skills education; the prevention of cyber crime and abuse; and policies conducive to competition and consumer information.

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Issued by the Tourism Working Group

Tourism is not just a source of revenue, say experts at the APEC Tourism Working Group. The two day meeting, which began today, assembles representatives from across the Asia-Pacific region. While the economic benefits of tourism have long been acknowledged, the industry is fast emerging as a platform for more complex challenges - environmental ethics, corporate social responsibility and social inclusion.

Explains the group chair, Helen Cox of the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism:

"Tourism is a significant contributor to the GDP of many APEC member economies, but it has the potential to improve the lives of people in other dimensions. It is important that industry is not only profitable but also sustainable. Proper economic planning means looking ahead, anticipating the outcome of trends and finding ways to maximize gain, and to contribute in a positive way to the quality of life in local communities."

Tourism is a key economic driver for the APEC region. Even the cumulative effects of SARS and the tsunami of 2004 did not curtail the upward flow of tourists to the region. In 2006, Asia-Pacific claimed 20 percent of international tourist receipts (an equivalent of US$ 153 billion).

"Traditionally, tourism has been a tool for economic development," says Dr. Ian Kean, Executive Director of the APEC International Center for Sustainable Development. "But it's insufficient. It can upset lifestyles and the environment. It's no longer acceptable."

Conversely, tourism can be used as a vehicle to improve a situation. For example, Kean offers, tourism can bring about community pride, stimulate planning and the establishment of facilities, and lead to greater appreciation on the part of both tourists and local communities.

In preparation for the meeting of Ministers (9 - 11 April), the working group will address: social inclusion and indigenous tourism; corporate social responsibility; environmental responsibility; cultural tourism; and aviation connectivity.

Opening remarks audio file is available for download.

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In spite of market progress, businesswomen across the Asia-Pacific continue to face many of the same old problems. According to Dr. Lorna Wright of the Schulich School of Business at York University in Canada, they still encounter major challenges in accessing credit, acquiring business management skills and in coping with disproportionate family and household duties.

The Women Leaders' Network (WLN) is currently meeting in Arequipa (12 - 14 May) to discuss the challenges and opportunities of globalization and trade for women; and ultimately to make recommendations to APEC officials.

Explains Andrina Lever, President of Lever Enterprises and member of the WLN, "We're not an official part of APEC but we are listened to and no official has ever refused to attend our meetings. Like APEC, we fly no flags, we have no budget and there is no formal administration. We come together as equals."

APEC economies comprise both some of the most and least developed economies and WLN discussions draw from a range of socio-economic paradigms. For example, it is an equally significant indicator to Dr. Wright that women tend to engage in business because they have to, whereas men do business because they choose to. They lack the passion that is, for men, an advantage.

Having identified the most common impediments to women in business, the WLN has focused its efforts on what it refers to as its three pillars. That is, support for: the digital economy; guidelines for women in export; and the development of successful microenterprises.

To this end, key discussion areas include small and medium enterprises (SMEs), access to markets and the impacts of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on women. Also receiving attention is the potential of rural women and ensuring that women across all economies can participate in digital economy and benefit from digital prosperity.

Recent studies have revealed that when women are included in business, tangible benefits are experienced both in business and in society.

Increasing female inclusion, then, is a practical way to address a multiplicity of issues at once.

In the host economy of Peru, Minister of Women and Social Development, Susana Pinilla Cisneros believes in the potential of export. "Women's participation in business is limited to the micro enterprise sector, to informal and less productive activities," she says. She also points out that only two percent of Peruvian products are directly exported, suggesting a wealth of possibilities that have yet to be exploited.

Running concurrently to meetings is the Women in Trade Exhibition of Business Women's Products. This has drawn over 100 participants and serves as a forum to make business contacts and to negotiate export agreements among women entrepreneurs.

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Issued by the Telecommunications and Information Ministerial Meeting

Universal access is not enough, say Ministers at the 7th APEC Ministerial Meeting on the Telecommunications and Information Industry (TELMIN 7).

Adopted today after a series of meetings entitled, "Digital Prosperity: Turning Challenges into Achievement," the Bangkok Declaration boldly asserts the importance of cross-border telecommunications that are not only efficient but insists that they should be "seamless."

The group is recognized for its ability to achieve its targets: the Brunei Goal of Tripling Internet Access within the Asia-Pacific region, set in 2000, has already been achieved and the goal of universal Internet by 2010 is within reach.

Determined to add a social perspective to the APEC agenda, the need for reliable infrastructure and service is all the more pronounced. States the Bangkok Declaration:

"Ensuring universally accessibly ICT infrastructure and services to bridge the digital divide is crucial to our future social and economic prosperity..." and that economies should "continue their efforts to expand the reach of networks with the ambitious goal of achieving universal access to broadband by 2015."

Present at the adoption, the private sector was recognized as a key partner in providing users with "seamless cross-border telecommunications and value-added services at competitive prices".

At the same time, for recommendations in the declaration to be successfully carried out would demand continuous intra-regional discussions of regulatory and policy approaches. In this respect, telecommunication and information industry activities are critical to APEC. Dialogues between economies will be fundamental in addressing a fluid and unpredictable market environment and global issues such as climate change and natural disaster. The declaration will be submitted to APEC Economic Leaders when they meet in Lima in November 2008.

The APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group (TEL) works continuously toward the achievement of the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies.

APEC Economic Leaders indicated their collective commitment to regional economic integration, to free and open markets, to the security of our people, and to address the challenges of climate change in Sydney Australia, 2007 ("Strengthening Our Community, Building a Sustainable Future").

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Women throughout the Asia-Pacific have a message for APEC Ministers: women are critical to regional economic growth. Throughout meetings in Arequipa, Peru, the network has considered the negative impact of the marginalization of women as economic contributors.

The Asia-Pacific, which includes both some of the world's most and least developed nations, boasts a cross section of women leaders, determined to increase the inclusion of women in trade and export policies.

Specifically addressing Ministers responsible for trade, the Women Leaders' Network (WLN) asserts that APEC Ministers should advise their departments to provide and develop export credit plans and micro-finance for small and micro-enterprises; and that they should include relevant women and women's organizations in the planning, negotiation and implementation of trade agreements.

Similarly, they have emphasized the need to make e-technology available, affordable and sustainable for women, including indigenous women and those in rural areas.

Noting the potential of technology to multiply the opportunities available to women, the group calls on both the APEC Human Resources Development (HRD) and Telecommunications and Information (TEL) working groups to develop an action plan to advance the education of women and girls in science, technology and information and communications technology (ICT) as well as in enterprise skills, beginning at school level.

A recurring theme throughout all areas is the need to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data on areas including trade and entrepreneurship; the number of women-led enterprises in the formal and informal economy; and micro- and small-enterprises. Vice Minister and 2008 WLN Chair, Dolores Tasayco stresses the importance of gender specific data in order to accurately determine real progress.

A complete outline of recommendations issued may be found online at:

In order to ensure adequate representation of women's interests in relevant arenas, the WLN has asked to be granted guest status at APEC working group meetings; and that one woman from each economy be appointed to APEC's Business Advisory Council (ABAC) from 2008.

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Issued by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)

Leading business representatives from the Asia-Pacific region have made a strong call for actions by governments to bring the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations to a successful conclusion within the next three months.

Speaking in Moscow today, the Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council, Mr Juan Francisco Raffo, said that the time had come for political decisions to conclude the negotiations and release the results for public scrutiny and debate.

In Geneva, trade negotiations have been gaining in momentum throughout past weeks and outcomes in agriculture and non-agricultural market access, services and other vital areas had begun to take shape, according to the World Trade Organization.

The ABAC delegation has urged the negotiators to complete their work so that the package could be signed off before the end of August. The credit crisis and the supply and rising cost of food have added to pressures on the global economy. Governments require the sort of support that may be available through the WTO and other international organisations.

"This is not a time for delay in the Doha Round negotiations," explains Raffo. "On the contrary, a high level outcome would inject new confidence into the global economy, help to counter protectionist pressures and provide a more stable environment for governments and business to work together on resolving the difficulties now faced."

ABAC understands that the technical work on agreements on major sections of the negotiations is close to completion. Documentation should be considered as a matter of urgency, with a view to completing the negotiation process. ABAC will be conveying this view to APEC Ministers of Trade who will be meeting in Peru at the end of May, and to their individual Governments. ABAC invites other business people and organizations to make similar approaches to Governments so no doubt can be left of the vital importance placed by business on the case for urgent resolution of the outstanding issues and the achievement of a comprehensive and balanced result.

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The GFPN has recognized the need for closer collaboration with all appropriate APEC fora in order to ensure that gender considerations are central to processes such as reform, policy, and project development and reporting. To this end, the group has issued recommendations to the Sub-Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) to be put before Senior Officials. Notably among these are:

The provision of support at the Economy and APEC level for trade capacity building assistance for women across the APEC region, particularly in developing economies, to assist women to have access to markets and benefit from free trade and globalization; and

The inclusion of the gender implications of trade as a key policy issue to be considered by APEC Economic Leaders and Ministers.

Negative impacts on women lead to negative impacts on the economy. Research has shown that gender discrimination and the marginalization of women costs APEC economies an approximate US$ 80 billion, each year.

At the 6th Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN) meeting, representatives of APEC's very distinct and diverse economies shared best practices in advancing the status of women in trade and - by extension - their respective economies, on the whole.

Among recent notable achievements are:

New legislation to protect women's human rights in areas of trafficking and domestic violence. This is possibly an outcome of the presentation of findings by Australia to Finance Ministers at the Seminar on Fiscal Space (Brunei, December 2007), which explored the actual cost of domestic violence.

Gender sensitivity training of officials in sectors requiring interaction with vulnerable women in the United States; and
The Indonesian Project, "Women in Times of Disaster", examining best practices in disaster prevention, response and rehabilitation.

Canadian research findings suggested the need for engendering trade negotiation mandates and strengthening APEC's capacity to address the gender dimensions of trade.

In response to these findings, Canada will lead a collaborative effort with the Philippines, Peru and the United States, to develop a trade database to be posted on the APEC/GFPN website. This is scheduled for completion by the end of 2008.

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Gender is neither "an issue", nor is it an exclusive concern among women, say delegates from Asian-Pacific economies. In fact, they insist, embedding a gender perspective in all APEC projects and working groups is a precursor to realizing the full economic potential of the region.

At the 6th meeting of the APEC Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN), gender is being addressed as a mutually-affecting concept:

"When we talk about gender equality, we're not only talking about women" explained a delegate of Indonesia. To advance the economic status of women is inextricable to the advancement of men and to the APEC region.

Because economies throughout the region exhibit disparate rates of gender integration, the GFPN provides expert advice on the gender considerations of project proposals and has developed guidelines to facilitate.

For example, APEC's Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) working group has applied these guidelines and - since women account for more than 50 percent of small business owners in certain economies - this is anticipated to have significant regional economic impact.

Some critics say that change occurs too slowly. Janet Stodulka of the Australian Government Office for Women acknowledges that, "Actually quantifying the extent to which women have been integrated in APEC is a difficult task."

GFPN Chair, Dr. Dolores Tasayco responds, "Movements for gender equality have been a series of progress and set backs. This is true throughout history and in all parts of the world."

Rather than expecting imminent results, she says, gender advocates should be diligent and consistent in "following up every action that implies gender equality, women's empowerment and the development of their skills. That is what will make each one of us effective as an agent of change in our own economy."

The achievements of GFPN, an institutional mechanism affecting progress toward the equal participation of women and men in APEC economies, are implemented through senior level participation and political commitment.

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Issued by the Chair of The Senior Officials' Meeting

As the adverse effects of climate change are seen across the globe, APEC economies considered how APEC might mitigate their negative impact. The Market Access Group (MAG) met to consider what constitutes an environmental good and service and possible ways to increase their trade.

Plans are in initial stages and the group has been in discussion with experts from the field. However, there is wide consensus that plans be established as a matter of urgency.

Considerations include the possibility of a voluntary database of environmental goods and services, as a means of information sharing and as a first step in a process. The proposed database is described as a "user friendly, easily accessible way to obtain information on environmental goods and services, which has often been difficult to access."

"We see both information sharing and the ability to engage more broadly on substantive issues surrounding environmental goods and services as two key benefits of this project," says a delegate of the United States.

It would also facilitate actions to be taken as a result of Leaders' statements.

Another environmentally-friendly practice would be the effective use of remanufactured products:

"For example," explains MAG Chair, Walter Goode, "you could take a bulldozer that was used for some time and which was in need of updating. You could renovate that bulldozer to the extent that it would function like new, except that it would be much cheaper." It would also result in less non-biodegradable waste.

Concern was also expressed with regard to the rising cost of food, globally, and attentions are focussed on addressing non-tariff barriers to trade in food, Sustainable food production, eco-labelling and escalating prices have been identified as discussion areas for the group's next meeting in August.

MAG is also involved in work relating to regional economic integration. Presently exploring Rules of Origin (ROO), MAG is considering ways to render them less convoluted.

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APEC's Chemical Dialogue has developed two reports for endorsement by APEC Ministers - the first on principles for best practice chemical regulations, and the second on issues associated with the implementation of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The implications of such an endorsement would affect businesses and private entities alike.

"If the principles for best practice chemical regulation are adopted, it will make intra and inter-regional trade easier," explains Shane Baker, Manager of the Chemicals Regulation Reform Section of the Australian Government's Innovation and Industry agency. "Goods and services should be cheaper - both in terms of the cost to businesses and to consumers."

Aside from cost, he says: "Unreasonable regulation stifles innovation. The price of introducing new chemicals can be prohibitive. The expense of things like different testing and packaging requirements can discourage their release - even if they are greener and better than those currently available."

The GHS report identifies ways to ensure that the GHS is implemented in a clear and consistent manner. The Government Co-Chair of the Chemical Dialogue noted that implementation of a harmonized labelling scheme for chemicals could cut costs significantly for businesses, which otherwise might have to use different labels to describe the same chemical product depending on the export market. Essentially, she says, the GHS will harmonize both format of the labels and the information that must be included on them.

While it seems relatively straight forward, the move to implement GHS will inevitably be met with numerous challenges.

"It's actually quite complex," explained Mr Baker. For example, requirements for labelling of small quantities sold to consumers may be different to that for industrial use, as the risks involved may be quite different.

"The challenge is to achieve a system that is harmonious but which is still relevant." And that would mean benefits for all, businesses and consumers"

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Issued by The Counter Terrorism Task Force

Peru will conduct an exercise in civil aviation, testing the response of APEC economies in a hypothetical emergency, modeled on a situation of terrorist attack.

APEC's Counter Terrorism Task Force addresses issues of security affecting trade. To this end, a series of exercises will determine future prospects for emergency preparation and the potential for collaborative actions throughout the region.

In one exercise, designated contact points will be contacted by Peru as a means of testing the ability of economies to respond quickly in the case of an emergency in civil aviation.

An official at the office of the Peruvian Senior Official's, Raúl Salazar Cosío explained:

"The network is already established. But the exercise will reveal the extent to which economies are able to respond to collective alerts and whether the network is always ready and prepared to deal with a possible threat."

The results of this exercise will be shared at the next Senior Officials Meeting in August.

Other task force initiatives include cooperation among Peru and the United States in a pilot programme for food defence against deliberate acts of food contamination.

"As of yet, we have to improve coordination between the public and private sectors to stop the spread of contaminated food. Our increasing levels of foreign trade and the proportion of food exports in it means that this sort of coordination is imperative," says Salazar Cosío. "This is a very natural progression for an open economy like Peru." The project would endeavour to train private enterprises to guarantee the safety of food products throughout the processing chain.

The Counter Terrorism Task Force meets three times per year, prior to the Senior Officials' meeting.

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As the Investment Experts' Group (IEG) awaits possible Ministerial approval of APEC's Investment Facilitation Action Plan (IFAP), attention has been turned toward foreign investment. If approved, the IEG would be a key driver of the work programme to implement many of the actions and measures to be taken over the three-year implementation period of the IFAP.

While the plan is non-binding, implementation depends on endorsement by all APEC economies. In the meantime, the IEG has focussed immediate attention outward through a strong work program involving multi year, multi stage projects aimed at enhancing capacities especially in APEC's developing member economies. The IEG's work on improving investment climates is an important complement to other work on structural reform in the Economic Committee and the private sector development agenda in the Small Medium Enterprises Working Group.

In recent weeks, the group has collaborated with international organisations, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as well as the private sector, examining ways to make the region more attractive to investors:

Explains Group Chair and Senior Adviser to the Foreign Investment and Trade Policy Division of the Australian Government, Roy Nixon, "The appeal of investment depends largely on one's experience with governments and the ease with which procedural requirements are carried out." For example, investors may need to obtain a license, or acquire permission to buy land. "Investment rules and regulations should be transparent, consistent and open. These are the conditions necessary to operate a business and to make prudent long-term decisions."

Conversely, he adds, APEC should learn more about how to improve its use of foreign direct investment. To this end, the group is using a case study approach with examples from both developing and developed economies of best practices in areas such as infrastructure, electricity and small and medium enterprises.

"Particularly," says Nixon, "we are studying those policies through which economies have successfully connected large multi-national corporations to local suppliers.

The IFAP, which has undergone rigorous processes by APEC's Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI), could be endorsed by APEC Trade Ministers next month and would provide a comprehensive framework of investment facilitation principles to guide the collective actions of APEC member economies key areas affecting investment flows. The current draft reflects a balance of views with some flexibility and compromise where necessary.

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Plausibility assessments of a Free Trade Agreement for the Asia-Pacific indicate that such an arrangement may not be so far off.

"We have finished reviewing 14 of 30 FTAs within the APEC region, analysing divergences and convergences," confirmed Senior Officials' Meeting Chair, Gonzalo Gutierrez at the Senior Officials' Policy Dialogue today. "It is a long term process but this comparative analysis of already-existing agreements is a significant contribution to the possible establishment of a Free Trade Agreement for the Asia-Pacific. Now, we must decide how this tool will inform our strategy."

Plans to implement a regional trade agreement have been in development for several years and rigorous analysis has been applied to actual similarities and differences among existing agreements. While comparison has revealed a range of disparities among APEC member economies' FTAs, these are by no means preclusive to a region wide agreement.

For example, Kati Suominen of the Inter-American Development Bank observes several very distinct styles of approach to tariff liberalisation. Nonetheless, she explains, "Ten year trends indicate that these divergent approaches will achieve the same results. One economy may make changes in increments while the next implements change at once. Still, trends indicate that each approach will lead to the same outcome in the tenth year of an agreement. In real time, tariff liberalisation has already reached 80 percent today and will have reached 95 percent by 2017 for existing FTAs."

To Suominen, a region-wide agreement is less complex than a system of bilateral agreements and would lead to a greater wealth of opportunities. The main challenge in the near-term is to define an integration strategy that will leverage RTA reforms while also retaining APEC's important regional gains toward liberalisation.

Describing sentiments expressed among the APEC business community, Dr. Carl Voigt of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California asserts, "They want plans for a free trade area to start now and to move quickly. Specifically, they want standard Rules of Origin and common language. And they want assistance for small to medium enterprises."

This comes as Peru - host to the Senior Officials' Meeting - prepares to sign Free Trade Agreements with both Canada and Singapore on Thursday. According to Chair Gutierrez, "These are two very important partners for Peru." Of Singapore, he explains, "In establishing a relationship with this Asian economy, Peru will be well positioned to export services and to forge additional trade agreements with other members."

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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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Delegates at the APEC meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) expressed their collective will to bring the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) to a successful conclusion this year. "[We] reiterate our determination to bring the Doha Development Agenda to a successful conclusion this year," they said in a statement, issued today.

While negotiations have been in progress for seven years, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General, Pascal Lamy encouraged Ministers: "The time is ripe for this final push. We are now at the tipping point. The elements are essentially there, but they need further clarification, further refinement."

APEC has been a consistent supporter of a multilateral trading system as a vehicle through which to achieve its own agenda for free trade and investment liberalization.

In addition, Ministers are convinced that "a prompt, ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Round will be one of the important factors in overcoming the serious international situation caused by the recent food price escalation."

They are however emphatic that a genuinely successful conclusion should address all modality issues, such as real improvements in market access and economic development that leads to higher standards of living - particularly for those in developing economies.

Lamy describes APEC as "a window of opportunity" and a means to addressing these modalities by June. MRT Chair, Mercedes Araoz agrees, "The DDA moving forward will support the views of APEC economies."

Substantial progress on key issues can be observed since the last meeting of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting last year in Sydney. For example, the recent release of revised negotiation texts on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and Chairs' reports on services and rules are significant developments that have facilitated movement of the Round.

According to Lamy, it is the actual pace of work that is critical at this particular phase. "This needs to be seriously accelerated," he said and exhorted APEC Ministers, "... it is in your hands to send the signals needed for Doha to come to a closure now."

Ministers asserted in their official statement, "We will continue to engage actively and constructively in the negotiations in Geneva. We APEC Ministers are ready to engage to deliver expeditiously a modalities agreement. We urge other WTO Members to do the same."

The APEC MRT Statement on the DDA can be found at:

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Determined to develop greater regional economic integration (REI), including the long-term prospect of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), APEC Ministers have endorsed a list of specific deliverables.

After a two-day meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT), endorsements include model measures for the chapters on Competition Policy, Environment and Temporary Entry for Business Persons. In addition, a study of bilateral investment agreements and core investment-related elements of existing free trade agreements in the region is being undertaken with a view to developing core principles for investment agreements.

The second Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAPP II), which asserts to reduce trade transaction costs by an additional 5 percent by 2010, will be accelerated by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reporting methodologies developed to measure the progress of collective actions toward implementation

Responding to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General, Mr. Pascal Lamy, who discussed the current situation of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), Ministers stressed the crucial importance of the WTO rules-based multilateral trading system and agreed on the urgency of bringing the DDA negotiations to a prompt and successful conclusion this year.

The global crisis caused by the dramatic escalation in food prices has increased the urgency to achieve substantial improvements in market access and reductions in market-distorting measures in global agricultural trade; and a rapid completion of the WTO Doha Round, with an ambitious and balanced outcome, would also be an important factor in overcoming this serious international situation.

To read the entire ministers' Statement, in its entirety, go to:

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Workers need "to go to higher levels" and to develop their propensity for "critical thinking, creativity, teamwork and self-learning", according to ministers throughout the Asia-Pacific. A Joint Statement issued by APEC Education Ministers anticipates rapid technological change and the need to transcend borders in accommodating them.

"It is not enough to be skilled in Mathematics or grammar," explains Peruvian Minister of Education and Chair of the Meeting, Jose Antonio Chang Escobedo. "Societies are becoming increasingly interdependent. In order to succeed in the future, students will need to be able to share their skills, to collaborate and to cooperate with others. They will need to adapt quickly to change and find solutions to problems that do not even yet exist."

Education is a substantive priority across APEC - not only as a social issue but as a fundament in defining economies and economic relations in the future. "Well educated citizens," says the Statement, "not only contribute to but also make for the social, economic, and sustainable development of our 21 Economies within just societies that value knowledge, promote a culture of peace, understanding and diversity."

Recognizing at once the diversity among cultures as well as a marked escalation in the number of trade agreements and level of regional cooperation, Ministers will concentrate efforts on developing among students the "competencies of the 21st Century...needed to succeed in all aspects of life, beyond the workforce, as an individual, a family member, community member and global citizen."

To this end, they say, curriculums should place critical emphasis on:

Mathematics and science as a way to navigate in a data-driven and technological world, regardless of occupation;

Career and technical education, preparing students to make multiple career transitions and to adapt to new technological innovations;

Learning each other's languages to communicate across cultures; and

Integrating information and communications technologies into classroom instruction.

While the actual roadmap may vary among economies, there is broad consensus as to desired outcomes and the statement includes a clause citing as imperative systematic educational reform.

The entire Joint Statement can be found at the APEC website:

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