APEC growth can drive world economy: CEOs

by Hiroko Nakata

YOKOHAMA — Business leaders, policymakers and academics from Asia-Pacific economies gathered Friday in Yokohama to discuss how the region can sustain an economic recovery at a time of uncertain global growth.

On the first day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit, Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), stressed the importance of active trade in the region in powering the global economy. Keidanren is sponsoring the event, which concludes Saturday.

“Throughout its more than 20-year history, APEC has helped foster growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific by promoting free and open trade and investment,” Yonekura said. “These efforts must and will be continued.”

Yonekura noted that as much as 80 percent of the revenues of many Japanese companies are generated in the region. “We believe it is essential to expand the network of free-trade agreements as basic institutional infrastructure,” he said, adding Japan should conclude bilateral and regional FTAs “as soon as possible.”

During panel discussions, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III noted the positive impact free and open trade has had on the region’s economy, but noted challenges still remain, including growth imbalances and differing political systems.

Many panelists were of the view that broader and wider FTAs would better boost the region’s growth and prove a driving force of global prosperity.

In particular, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should play a key role in facilitating the region’s trade integration, said Haruhiko Kuroda, president of the Asian Development Bank.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key warned that exchange rate adjustments in the currency market should be fair to avoid derailing global growth, alluding to Japan’s yen-selling intervention in September and China’s alleged devaluation of the yuan.