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APEC business leaders call for a grand trade pactnews
15 November 2006

Mumbai: Business leaders from Asia-Pacific have called for a vast free trade area to counter the proliferation of mini-pacts, which, they say, are adding to costs and making business in the region complex. They have called for an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (AEPC) initiative to promote convergence and consolidation of existing agreements, and those currently being negotiated.

At their annual meeting ahead of the summit in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) noted that bilateral and regional trade pacts have blossomed in recent years, while a vast APEC-wide zone had yet to get off the drawing board. They said at least 50 free trade pacts have been agreed or are under discussion among countries represented at APEC.

APEC''s 21 members account for nearly half of global trade, 40 per cent of the world''s population and 56 per cent of the world''s gross domestic product. But progress towards APEC''s plans for a free trade area has been slow.

ABAC, comprising three top business people from each APEC economy, also urged leaders to renew efforts to revive the Doha round of global trade talks, which collapsed in July.

Despite the oil shocks APEC economies continued to maintain a higher growth rate than the global average, demonstrating that trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation were the driving force behind development. But APEC was facing a series of challenges like the development gap, tough competition, market volatility, pandemics, and natural calamities as well as protectionism that posed difficulties to the movement of capital, services, technology, and labour, ABAC pointed out.

APEC economies must foster cooperation in key areas like improving the business environment, rational exploitation and utilisation of natural resources, transfer of new technologies, and settlement of new issues like aging populations and shrinking labour forces, the council said.

The ABAC recommendations would be carefully examined by APEC leaders in their meeting this week. ABAC members would also have a direct dialogue with APEC leaders on November 18 to voice their concerns and ideas for development .


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APEC business leaders call for a grand trade pact