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Apec's worries: Slowing growth, protectionism

Publication Date : 07-09-2012


Trade ministers from across the Asia-Pacific have expressed worry over slowing growth and rising trade protectionism, and called for more to be done to keep trade free-flowing.

After two days of meetings in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) trade ministers yesterday pledged to roll back trade barriers that had been put up since the global economic crisis in 2009. They also encouraged the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to deepen its monitoring of protectionist measures.

"We note with concern the International Monetary Fund's downward projection for global economic growth for this and next year and the rise in protectionist instances around the world," they said in a joint statement. "These developments increase the urgency of further action to keep markets open."

The meetings of trade and foreign ministers also resulted in a breakthrough on the trade of environmental goods and services, with officials proposing a list of 54 environmental goods and services for which import duties will be cut to 5 per cent by 2015. These products, which include waste incinerators and wind turbines, will help promote environmental cleanliness, said Russia's Minister of Economic Development Andrey Belousov.

The developments lay the groundwork for talks scheduled to take place between leaders of the 21 Apec member economies this weekend, including Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Also on the agenda are issues from regional trade integration to food security and the development of reliable supply chains.

Yesterday, on the sidelines of the meeting, trade ministers discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which aims to create an Asia-Pacific-wide free trade area.

Started by Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand, the TPP has expanded to include the United States, Australia, Vietnam, Peru and Malaysia, and welcomed Canada and Mexico as its 10th and 11th members. Japan is still in discussions to join.

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said: "There was consensus to renew efforts to conclude negotiations expeditiously, so that our countries may reap the benefits of a comprehensive and high-quality regional agreement."

Singapore also asked China to consider joining the TPP after Lee and President Hu Jintao met in Beijing this week.


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