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An APEC advisory panel on Monday called for action plans that would promote information technology as a tool to enhance trade liberalization.

According to an annual report compiled by APEC’s Business Advisory Council, the 21 forum members need better access to information technology to help them with capacity-building, or the ability to handle increased trade and investment.

The panel — the official voice of the APEC region’s private sector — recommends that member governments take initiatives to assess their respective e-commerce readiness, given the fact that e-commerce provides business opportunities which in turn become the keys to a global market.

It also urges leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to stimulate the development of e-commerce within their economies by including a clear timetable for putting government services online.

To help nurture an environment conducive to e-commerce, APEC economies should work to form an international framework that takes a minimalist approach to regulating e-commerce, the report says.

In addition to IT, the panel points to biotechnology as another key area that will bring benefits to APEC economies and recommends that member economies take scientific approaches to judge the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods.

APEC members have been working on individual action plans to realize free and open trade and investment in the region by 2010 for industrialized countries and by 2020 for developing countries.

The panel urges the members to expedite their individual action plans so they can achieve the benefits of free trade.

Other recommendations include the removal of impediments to global business and the alignment of domestic standards with international norms.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

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