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BEPPU, Oita Pref. (Kyodo) Pacific Rim economies agreed at a high-level meeting Sunday on the need to improve the region’s “quality of growth” through a growth strategy to encourage job creation, the development of smaller businesses and structural reforms.

The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which held a two-day meeting from Saturday to specifically discuss the envisioned long-term comprehensive strategy, also reached a consensus to report on the progress of the strategy’s implementation in 2015.

“As the world’s leading growth center, the APEC region has a great responsibility for the future course of the global economy . . . APEC should contribute to improving the quality of growth in the global economy,” said the chair’s statement issued at the end of the APEC Growth Strategy High-Level Policy Round Table in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

Compiling a growth strategy, the first such initiative for the forum since its launch in 1989, is expected to be one of the key outcomes of the annual APEC leaders’ summit to be held in Yokohama in November.

As it was the first time for APEC to hold a ministerial-level meeting focused on the issue, participants hailed the event in the hot spring resort city of Beppu as a “landmark.” But there appears to be a long road ahead for the economically diverse members of the forum to reach a consensus in working out the specifics of the strategy.

While the participants reaffirmed the need for creating action plans to ensure the implementation of the strategy, the statement did not refer to specific indicators that would help gauge progress.

Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima, who jointly chaired the meeting with national policy minister Satoshi Arai, told reporters after the meeting that it would take “some time” to create concrete assessment criteria.

“For example, when you look at the social insurance system, there are big differences in demographic structures and economic and social situations (among the member economies),” he said.

The two-day talks were centered on the five aspects of growth that APEC plans to achieve, namely “balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure” growth.

As for inclusive growth that would allow all citizens to have the opportunity to thrive in the global market economy, the participants affirmed the need to promote job creation, the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurship, and new economic opportunities for women.

The statement also referred to the protection of intellectual property rights to contribute to innovative growth, while noting that APEC should implement structural reforms and complement the efforts of the Group of 20 major developed and emerging economies in pursuing balanced growth in the region.

The idea of formulating a regional growth strategy came against the backdrop of the global financial crisis triggered in 2008, which showed that market mechanisms alone would not result in desired growth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Japanese officials.

The region also needs to address issues such as opportunity disparities within and between economies as APEC continues to promote free and open trade, as well as regional economic integration.

APEC, which accounts for more than half of the world’s economic output and 44 percent of its trade by value, includes among its members Australia, China, Japan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, and seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Some experts say Asian growth, which is heavily reliant on exports, is one factor causing global trade imbalances, stressing the importance of expanding domestic consumption such as through infrastructure development and by boosting consumer demand.

Naoshima told reporters that he felt through the discussions that Asian countries are especially hoping to shift to domestic demand-led growth from the viewpoint of enhancing people’s living standards.

Japan assumed the rotating chair of the forum this year for the first time since 1995 and is hosting a series of meetings nationwide.

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