Desra Percaya, Director General for Asia-Pacific and Africa Affairs under the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. — Photo kemlu.go.id
Over nearly three decades, the cooperation between APEC member economies has brought benefits to the Asia-Pacific region, and each member economy has contributed to APEC’s common goals of building a dynamic and harmonious Asia-Pacific community. Vietnam News Agency correspondents discussed the issue with Desra Percaya, Director General for Asia-Pacific and Africa Affairs under the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.
APEC member economies are attempting to liberalise and open trade, investment, accelerate regional economic integration, encourage economic and technical cooperation, and promote a strong business environment. How successful has this process been?
APEC has gone a long way since its inception, and APEC member economies have been able to make substantial progress in many areas. For nearly three decades, APEC has contributed to sustaining growth and advancing economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, created millions of jobs and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.
One of the main drivers of such progress is the “Bogor Goals” of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific, adopted by APEC Leaders when Indonesia hosted and chaired APEC 1994.
Since then, the Bogor Goals have inspired Member Economies in their pursuit for sustainable development and equitable growth. This is done through policies which are aimed at enhancing trade and investment flows through economic openness.
Some of the examples of progress towards the Bogor Goals are:
Tariff rates are much lower relative to the 1990s.The number of Regional Trade Agreements/Free Trade Agreements (RTAs/FTAs) in-force has soared since early 2000s. Many sectors are more accessible to foreign investment and services trade than before. Indicators on trade and investment facilitation have improved over time. Living standards have improved. Enrollment in tertiary education has increased significantly. Access to electricity has expanded. Poverty has fallen significantly.
Certainly, there is still more work that APEC economies can do to improve existing trade and investment conditions, as progress has been uneven across the region, while inequality and unemployment persist.
In general, APEC has been advancing towards the right direction, as trade and investment openness has been accompanied by socioeconomic improvements within the region.
What challenges will APEC members have to face to achieve their goals of promoting sustainable and prosperous economic growth in the Asia - Pacific region?
We live at a time when the regional and global landscapes have experienced complex and fundamental shifts, as well as far-reaching challenges. For example, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and advancements in technology have been altering our nature of work. They are transforming our societies and the way we connect and interact.
We also note that although the regional and global economic recovery is on firmer footing, medium and long-term risks remain high. APEC economies, as well as the global economies, are encountering intertwined and multi-dimensional issues.
Another challenge is the impact of globalisation. While deepening globalisation and expanding trade and investment have brought unprecedented prosperity in the Asia Pacific region, not all groups and individuals have benefited equally from this process.
These are the “unfinished business” we need to address. With the Bogor Goals expiring in merely three years, we need to accelerate our efforts towards the achievement of the targets, and prepare ourselves beyond the Bogor Goals.
In this regard, I expect that the upcoming APEC Summit in Việt Nam will adopt the “post-2020 Vision”, which will guide APEC’s future directions and assert its leadership in addressing common challenges.
How does Indonesia assess Việt Nam’s initiatives and role in the forum as well as Việt Nam’s hosting of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting 2017?
Indonesia supports the APEC Việt Nam 2017 priorities under the theme “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future”. The priorities are very much related to the ongoing and emerging challenges today, as well as to APEC’s works to promote growth and regional economic integration.
For example, the priority of “promoting sustainable, innovative, and inclusive growth” is crucial for APEC, as we need to address challenges such as persistent inequality and unemployment, enduring multi-dimensional poverty, and the impacts of technological progress. Việt Nam’s initiative to launch the “Action Agenda on Advancing Economic, Financial, and Social Inclusion in the APEC Region” is very much in line with this important priority.
Việt Nam has thus far successfully played its leadership role in promoting other important initiatives, such as those on human resources development in the digital age; the strategy for green, sustainable and innovative micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and on promoting innovative start-ups. Indonesia commends and supports these timely initiatives. We see them as crucial parts of APEC’s work in addressing today’s challenges.
Việt Nam’s APEC 2017 priorities are also closely related to Indonesia’s. This year, Indonesia is focusing on the issues of promoting the agenda of rural development and poverty alleviation, fostering maritime co-operation, improving connectivity, and strengthening the MSMEs. Việt Nam as Chair and host economy has done its best to accommodate our interests and priorities during the deliberations this year.
As we are getting closer to the summit, we stand ready to work collaboratively with Việt Nam and other economies in realising a successful APEC year. — VNS