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APEC ends prep session without timeline for connectivity target

Kyodo

Senior officials of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum concluded preparatory talks Wednesday at a beach resort in Bali, Indonesia, without agreeing on a timeline for creating a “well-connected” region.

“Ninety-seven percent of the deliverables proposed during the meeting have been on track and only some still need to be sharpened,” said Yuri Thamrin, director general for Asia-Pacific and Africa at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, trying to put a positive spin on the two-day meeting that started Tuesday.

According to Thamrin, one of the “deliverables” that has not received full support from APEC economies is related to the target of increasing connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Some countries want to set the year 2030 as the targeted timeline for building a comprehensively connected and integrated Asia-Pacific,” Thamrin said, adding that such a target will “energize” the whole process.

Some countries, however, refused to endorse the deadline, preferring a flexible “open-ended” target.

Thamrin did not elaborate on which countries oppose the timeline, but an APEC source close to the proceedings said Singapore and the United States do not agree with the target.

“Connectivity is a factor that can boost growth and investment, so this issue needs to be resolved,” Thamrin said.

The new timeline, if agreed upon and included in the leaders’ declaration, will be 10 years beyond the date set by the Bogor Goals, a declaration signed by the APEC leaders in the West Java town of Bogor in 1994 to free up trade and investment within the region by 2020.

Deny Kurnia, a senior official at Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade, said the opposing countries prefer “not to eclipse the Bogor goals by setting a time beyond what the Bogor goals had set.”

The leaders’ declaration is expected to be issued at the end of the APEC summit next Tuesday.

The deliverables already endorsed by the APEC economies include support for the multilateral trading system and for achieving concrete results at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Bali from Dec. 3 to 6.

The leaders are expected to issue a stand-alone statement, separate from the leaders’ declaration, to reaffirm their commitment to strengthening the multilateral trading system and safeguarding trade expansion to facilitate growth, job creation and sustainable development.

In a draft of the stand-alone statement, the leaders are expected to extend by a year — to the end of 2016 — a “standstill” commitment made in 2008 to refrain from introducing new barriers to trade and investment.

The WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade talks has been stalled since 2006, mainly due to differences among major trading nations. According to the draft statement, APEC ministers will urge for bringing the talks to “an early and successful conclusion.”

Officials said the impasse in the Doha Round has weakened the credibility and confidence of the multilateral trading system, the draft copy says.

“We noted that global economic challenges have placed urgency on WTO members to revive and accelerate completion of the negotiations,” the ministers say in the draft, calling for the WTO meeting to take “smaller steps” toward an overall conclusion of the Doha Round package.