Connectivity spurs economic goals
Syafiq Affendy in Nusa Dua, Bali

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to deliver a Titah yesterday voicing out support on the discussions in ECOTECH to streamline and strengthen capacity building activities, at the first session of the Leaders’ Retreat of the 21st APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Sofitel Hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia.

His Majesty highlighted that a lot of the work APEC is doing would provide a strong impetus in supporting economic growth. For this reason, APEC’s work on APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Framework is particularly important in promoting trade facilitation and progress in this area would complement the multilateral trading system.

During the Retreat, leaders focused their discussion on the theme “APEC’s Role in Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System and in the Current Global Economic Situation”.

Leaders shared the achievements of APEC economies since the “Bogor Goals” and explored the way forward to maintain APEC’s relevance in the midst of the global economic situation.

Leaders also exchanged views on APEC’s efforts to support the multilateral trading system, so as to achieve a more open and free trade and investment region leading to an Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.

In this regard, realising that the Doha Development Agenda negotiations are at a critical juncture, Leaders issued a separate statement supporting the multilateral trading system and the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Recognising that trade and investment are critical to the creation of better quality jobs and increased prosperity of the people, Leaders also reiterated their commitment to uphold APEC’s role towards reaching the end goal of free and open trade and investment by fulfilling the mandate of the Bogor Declaration by 2020.

His Majesty underlined that achieving regional economic integration had become more pressing for APEC, given the challenging economic outlook which the region is still facing and the emphasis given to the topic by other major international forums such as the G20.

His Majesty expressed his appreciation for the work that APEC officials have done towards attaining the “Bogor Goals” thus moving APEC closer to its 2020 aspirations.

In this regard, His Majesty stated the importance of capacity building especially to developing economies.

As His Majesty laid out the importance of APEC’s work on APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Framework in promoting trade facilitation and how progress in the area would complement the multilateral trading system, His Majesty furthermore stated that the on-going collaboration APEC has with the WTO on monitoring trade protectionism is very useful and would therefore like to endorse the commitment to extend the ‘standstill’ against protectionist measures until 2016.

At the same time, APEC has embarked on a series of initiatives such as establishing model measures for Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and efforts on supporting global value chains. This year, the priority agenda is on connectivity, which His Majesty believes could move APEC closer to its aspirations for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

His Majesty added that in Asean, it has launched negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) in May this year with six Dialog Partners, which ASEAN aims to complete by 2015.

Based on the guiding principles of giving respect to WTO rules and having a feature of open accession, this agreement would be an ambitious and high quality FTA that is comprehensive in scope, yet gives developing economies the necessary means to apply flexibility as normally provided in the FTAs with ASEAN Partners.

His Majesty further said the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is another agreement that will also encompass many features of the work undertaken in APEC and which is intended to be concluded by the end of the year. His Majesty believes that these two agreements would help APEC in achieving its goals of regional economic integration which builds onto APEC’s Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific. More importantly, it would provide support for the Doha Round and the multilateral trading system as a whole.

His Majesty also said that with the upcoming 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in December in Bali, any strong political support that members can give to it, would be very useful in producing a good set of outcomes.

At the end of his Titah, His Majesty stated that APEC’s contributions towards supporting regional economic integration and strengthening the multilateral trading system are most valuable and therefore suggested that Leaders should continue to make use of APEC as a platform to complement the wider international forums.

Accompanying His Majesty at the first session of the Leaders’ Retreat were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abd Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance ii at the Prime Minister’s Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade II and Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office. - Borneo Bulletin (8 October 2013)