PUTRAJAYA: The 21-member economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) must make new choices to achieve a more cohesive and sustainable vision, post-2020.
International Trade and Industry Ministry deputy secretary-general (Industry) Datuk Seri Norazman Ayob said only by addressing the biggest issues at their intersection, and by leveraging all sectors to try to solve them, would member economies reach solutions that lead to lasting changes.
In his speech at the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Post-2020 Vision here, today, Norazman said the responsibility of producing the vision lied not only with Malaysia, but also with all the other member economies and stakeholders.
“You (the stakeholders) are crucial in this process so that Apec will be able to produce a collective vision for the region by leveraging on the different backgrounds, experience and expertise, for Apec to remain dynamic, innovative and relevant in the future.
“Apec as an institution has been an important part of regional trade and investment architecture for the past 30 years.
“Similarly, the Bogor Goals which set the aspiration for a free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020 for Apec economies, has managed to bring the region closer through reduction of trade barriers and addressing gaps in regulations,” he said.
Norazman said average tariffs have fallen from 17 per cent in 1989 to 5.3 per cent in 2018, through initiatives and activities pursued by member economies.
During the same period, he added, Apec’s share of the world’s trade increased from 41 per cent to 48 per cent or US$24 trillion, a success which could be attributed to the nature of its existence as a multilateral economic and trade forum.
“It is not based on strict rules and legal commitments. Instead, Apec allows for commitments to be voluntary and non-binding.
“Member economies are free to take steps to implement measures and commitments jointly agreed by consensus.”
He said in this day and age where unpredictability is the new norm, economies had to be prepared to constantly embrace change in order to survive current global uncertainties.
The familiar globalisation process, he added, was being redefined by the ambiguity brought by rising economic nationalism, policy uncertainty, and rapid adoption of digital technologies.
These factors, Noorazman said, made it necessary for Apec to recharge itself to move forward with its present and future agenda, stressing that Apec no longer had the luxury of complacency.
“Economic development is not solely about creating equal opportunities and prosperity created through trade and investment, but it has to have impact on the well-being of people.
“Therefore, if we are to survive and thrive in this new age of uncertainty, we will all have to learn to navigate complexity.
“This is important to be kept in mind in our work to develop the Apec Post-2020 Vision,” he said.
Noorazman said the content in the Post-2020 Vision must be creatively crafted to ensure that people were put at the core of discussions, apart from reflecting practical undertakings in dealing with evolving challenges.
He said a more holistic approach that includes inclusivity, equality and sustainability could be explored, to ensure that no one was left behind.
“The theme for Apec 2020 is ‘Optimising Human Potential towards a Future of Shared Prosperity’, with Shared Prosperity identified as the central element in the agenda setting this year.
“Malaysia will advance this agenda by introducing initiatives and activities that will be able to provide better narrative of how trade and investment can be more inclusive in the hope for a better living standard, through creation of equal opportunities for everyone.”
Noorazman also highlighted sustainability and environment, which he said were “real issues” that needed to be pushed to the forefront of discussion.
Apec economies, he added, must take responsible action in addressing environmental sustainability challenges faced globally.
“We can clearly see businesses showing their commitment through solid actions.
“Hence, Apec as a respected regional economic forum can contribute in this area by inserting a firm commitment towards environmental sustainability in the Post-2020 Vision,” said Noorazman.