APEC ministers discuss free trade as TPP remains in focus


Trade ministers of the APEC forum discussed free trade and ways to facilitate investment as their two-day gathering kicked off Saturday in Indonesia.

The meeting coincided with Japan winning formal approval to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks from all 11 member states during negotiations on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation event.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi attended the first day of the gathering, during which members discussed the elimination of tariffs on information technology products enforced by the World Trade Organization. The 21 member economies of APEC addressed issues including the implementation of their commitment to reduce tariffs on environmental goods and services to 5 percent or less by 2015.

Other topics on the agenda included economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the envisaged TPP agreement that could cover one-third of world trade even without China’s participation.

Japan has accelerated its involvement in free-trade negotiations in recent months under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as it seeks to expand exports and lift an economy that has long been stifled by deflation.

Aside from the TPP, Japan has been holding bilateral trade liberalization discussions with the European Union among other economies, as well as trilateral talks with China and South Korea.

The 21 APEC economies, which include the current 11 members of the TPP — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — are expected to adopt a statement on the outcome of the talks at the end of the two-day meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.

The other APEC economies are Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.