APEC leaders say credit crisis can be overcome by mid—2010
Channel NewsAsia - Tuesday, November 25
LIMA, PERU: Leaders from the 21—member nations of the Asia—Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are convinced they can overcome the global financial crisis in 18 months.
That note of confidence came at the end of a two—day APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru.
Speaking to the Singapore media later, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the optimism stems from the cooperation which APEC members have forged over the years.
In a separate declaration, the leaders also pledged to act quickly and decisively to address the economic slowdown by advancing regional economic integration.
The leaders outlined several measures aimed at promoting greater convergence among economies, specifically in the areas of customs administration, trade facilitation and cross border services.
For example, the free trade agreement between Singapore, New Zealand, Brunei and Chile looks set to grow, with the United States, Australia and Peru keen to join the grouping.
Prime Minister Lee said: "Now the Americans want to join, the Australians want to join, the Peruvians want to join, and we know of one or two others who are also interested in joining... Just having these 3 plus the original 4 makes it a significant grouping.
"So what started small as a nucleus is growing and it has the potential to grow into a significant vehicle for integrating the economies of the Asia Pacific region. So I think these are optimistic longer term signs that the region is going in the right direction.
"Of course in Asia, we believe Asia’s dynamism has got deep structural reasons and the transformation will continue. So whatever the short or medium—term difficulties with the financial system or with the recession now, there are these longer term trends, which we should not neglect and which we should keep our eyes on and try to build upon."
Mr Lee added the APEC meeting was a good chance for leaders to compare notes on the financial crisis and the sense is that member states are not in "panic mode".
"Because for now, the situation has stabilised, but they know that they have to make contingency measures in case things go wrong — which is still possible — then they have to react," he said.
APEC leaders also emphasised the importance of strengthening financial markets in the wake of the liquidity crunch and market slump.
To facilitate business links, the leaders reiterated the importance of tackling domestic barriers to trade and investment in the creation of well—performing, resilient and robust economies.
More work is also expected in efforts to forge the long—term goal of an Asia Pacific Free Trade Area.
Ministers and officials have been tasked to look into the likely impact of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and advise on possible capacity building requirements. The ministers are expected to report their findings to the leaders next year.
Trade issues aside, leaders have also voiced strong concern over food security — in particular, the impact of rising global food prices and food shortages in some developing countries.
On protecting regional trade and combating terrorism, leaders have welcomed Singapore′s lead to undertake a pilot Trade Recovery Programme (TRP) exercise in 2009.
The initiative is aimed at ensuring that the flow of people, goods and investments remains secure and open and economies and markets operate without disruption.
Other areas addressed in the Leaders′ Declaration include promoting corporate responsibility, disaster risk preparedness and climate change.
Singapore will host the next APEC Summit in November next year. Picking up from the Peru summit, Singapore is expected to make a strong push next year towards continued regional integration.
And with the uncertain economic climate ahead, efforts at reducing trade barriers and boosting connectivity to help business, will take on added urgency.
The 21 APEC member economies are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.
The APEC region stands out as one of the most rapidly growing, economically dynamic, and business friendly regions in the world. Together, the 21 APEC members account for nearly 60 per cent of global GDP and roughly 50 per cent of international trade.
The average GDP growth rate in the rapidly growing and dynamic economies in this region was 5.1 per cent in 2006, compared with the world average of 3.9 percent.
Since 1990, Asia—Pacific’s trade in goods has increased by 300 per cent, while global investment in the region has increased by over 400 per cent.
In APEC tradition, the leaders wrapped up their meeting in Lima with a group photograph, wearing the host nation’s national costume. This time, it was the Chall, a brown poncho originating from the Andes region.
From Lima, Prime Minister Lee has gone on to Sao Paulo, Brazil for an official visit. He is expected to give a speech at a luncheon organised by the Sao Paulo Federation of Industries on Tuesday.
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