Viet Nam News
NHA TRANG — Senior officials from the 21 member economies sat together for the first working day on Thursday in Nha Trang, discussing three out of four priorities proposed by Việt Nam for the APEC Year 2017.
The priorities include fostering sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth; deepening regional economic integration; strengthening micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)’s competitiveness and innovation in the digital age; and enhancing food security and sustainable agriculture in response to climate change.
The meeting comes at the start of what promises to be a difficult year as global and regional economic growth remains low, in addition to weak global trade and subdued investment.
“There are many uncertainties,” SOM chair and Deputy Foreign Minister of Việt Nam Bùi Thanh Sơn noted in his opening remarks at the first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 1) of the year.
“In some corners, we are hearing concerns that the benefits of globalisation are not distributed fairly. New disruptive technologies, if not properly harnessed, run the risk of widening development disparity among economies.”
“But the Asia-Pacific region remains the engine of economic growth and integration, and a pioneer in advancing trade and investment liberalisation,” Deputy FM Sơn affirmed.
Sơn said he believed APEC had all the resources, potential and capabilities to overcome these challenges and turn them into an impetus for further growth and development.
“As a grouping of dynamic economies, our region can and will continue to move ahead on the path of development and prosperity,” he added.
During the two-day SOM meeting, reports and recommendations from discussions of various APEC committees and working groups over the last 12 days are presented to senior officials who will exchange views on how to advance APEC’s agenda in the four priority areas to help APEC affirm its relevance and role as the premier regional economic forum.
“Under the current context, there is lots of scepticism and concern about regional integration as well as globalisation, and liberalisation of trade and investment, thus, this is the time we must act in two fundamental directions,” said Chairman of Việt Nam’s APEC 2017’s Organising Committee, economist Võ Trí Thành on the sidelines of SOM 1.
Thành said it was necessary to make efforts to continue the process of integration, free trade and investment but in a smarter and flexible manner to produce intensive and evenly-shared profits among countries, economies, and regions.
“That is to address at least three big issues: unequal development; the rise of the 4th industrial revolution which may see huge costs for transition, and higher unemployment rates; and the aging populations in Asia and other regions,” the prominent economist said.
“To that end, a new policy approach is a serious requirement.”
Participants applauded the report by the Chair of the Finance Senior Officials’ Meeting and called for additional regular exchanges to ensure close collaboration between the banking and financial sectors to foster APEC’s common interests, APEC 2017 National Secretariat’s Deputy Director - General Đỗ Hùng Việt told the media.
Based on a report by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Chair, delegates affirmed the vital role of ABAC in helping APEC senior officials deal with the existing shortcomings of the investment and business environment; and enterprise community’s wishes to promote inclusive growth, address non-tariff barriers, facilitate small and medium-sized enterprises, and enhance women’s contribution to the economy.
The Economic Committee Chair’s report received opinions from 17 out of 21 representatives of member economies. The opinions express their concern over vital issues including structural reform, promoting co-operation, and support for MSMEs, and highly appreciated Việt Nam’s initiative related to enhanced co-operation in human resources.
Also on Thursday, delegates discussed ways to increase inclusive growth – a top concern of Việt Nam and common concern of the whole region – to make sure that all citizens and businesses can get the best benefits from globalisation and regional connection.
“Besides APEC priorities, we also talked a lot about financial, economic and social inclusion, and female empowerment,” said Marcela Otero, Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ General Directorate of International Economic Affairs of Chile – the host of APEC 2018. “All these sectors need to be included in the benefits of trade globalisation.”
Otero said the first working day was very interesting and looked like a promising Vietnamese Year for APEC as the officials’ on-going work also focuses on how to make concrete resources and concrete achievements, and the road to FTAAP, among others.
In the afternoon, senior officials discussed and approved reports by the Economic Committee and Committee on Trade and Investment. Numerous specific initiatives and measures have been put forward and discussed, focusing on the realisation of APEC 2017 priorities, particularly in fostering sustainable growth and inclusive growth, regional economic connection and MSMEs.
Today, SOM 1 will continue discussions on priorities and put forward orientations for APEC co-operation from now until the APEC Summit in central Đà Nẵng City in November.
“What I hope to take away from this first SOM is a strong message reaffirming APEC’s essential role as the premier economic forum that is working for the people and businesses,” SOM Chair and Deputy FM Sơn said. — VNS