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Opening The Services Sector Offers Big Gains, Say APEC Officials

Surabaya, Indonesia (KN) – The projected gains of opening services sectors are almost twice as big as the gains from the liberalization of merchandise trade. The potential benefits for the Asia-Pacific region were examined by APEC Senior Officials, business representatives and academics during an APEC a services dialogue this week in Surabaya.Liberalizing services could stimulate growth, create jobs, make small and medium enterprises more competitive and lower prices for consumers, speakers explained. By lowering business costs, it was noted that freer services sectors could also enhance companies’ ability to export and compete in international markets. Discussion of these issues helped to set the tone for the opening of the APEC Senior Officials’ meeting here on Thursday and Friday.

“More open services sectors are critical to enhancing economic growth,” said Ambassador Yuri Thamrin, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting which is tasked with pushing forward member economies’ agenda for ensuring a resilient Asia-Pacific.

“A better understanding of the challenges and opportunities in further expanding trade in services through public-private dialogue can help to identify practical ways forward.”

Trade in commercial services increases around seven percent annually among APEC economies, noted Ambassador Thamrin. But unlike manufacturing in the region, restrictions remain in some sectors such as energy, transportation and telecommunications.

Structural reforms in these sectors alone could generate about US$175 billion in savings a year, according to research by the APEC Policy Support Unit.

“Services are critical to achieving the Bogor Goals to achieve accelerated, balanced and equitable economic growth not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but throughout the world,” said Dr Djisman Simandjuntak, of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council which is an official APEC observer.

“There is now substantial evidence that regulatory clarity and a competitive environment will lead to big benefits for consumers. For example, the reduction of freight rates by 20 percent and the reduction of electricity prices by 23 percent,” he noted.

APEC economies’ engagement with the private sector is playing a role in their work to promote structural reform.

“Regulatory reform and the opening up of services brings huge benefits to economies and more importantly, to consumers,” said Anthony Nightingale of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

“We are very pleased that APEC is devoting increased attention to this vital sector of economic activity,” he added. “By putting our heads together with leaders in government, we can come up with ideas and initiatives that can help to address such issues constructively.”

Stage set for APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Indonesia

Surabaya, Indonesia (KN) – APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade will convene this weekend in Surabaya, Indonesia to lay out a realistic path for rejuvenating trade and global growth.

APEC economies seek to make it easier to conduct business by advancing their work to lower barriers, improve regional connectivity and promote more sustainable, inclusive growth in the region, according to Ambassador Yuri Thamrin, the 2013 Chair of the APEC Senior Officials whose preparatory meeting concluded here on Friday.

“We will provide support to help ensure the success of APEC Leaders and Ministers when they meet in Bali in October and for the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference that will also be there in December,” Ambassador Thamrin said.

APEC economies account for around half of global gross domestic product and total trade, and continue to outperform the rest of the world in terms of growth. Their increasing market integration, resistance to protectionism and commitment to reduce tariff and non-tariff measures combine to foster a better business environment which is boosting productivity in the region.

“Building on APEC’s progress is essential to lifting businesses, particularly the small and medium enterprises that are the backbone of our region’s economies,” Ambassador Thamrin said. “This helps to create new employment opportunities, raise living standards and deliver a wider range of goods and services to consumers at lower prices.”

APEC economies are addressing issues such as supply chain development and the implementation of their commitment to reduce tariffs on a significant number of environmental goods and services to five percent or less by 2015.

“We are intent on advancing development that builds resistance to shocks,” Ambassador Thamrin said. “This means ensuring that our path to sustainable growth takes into account equity for the people.”

High on APEC economies’ agenda is the furthering of issues that boost productivity through better preventative health strategies, inclusive economic development and improved production and access to food supplies.

“We have started launching fresh initiatives and are gathering political will to enhance economic development in the region,” Ambassador Thamrin explained. “Our goal is to establish a unified framework for integrating APEC economies through better physical, institutional or people-to-people connectivity.”

“This framework will play a vital role in promoting new sources of growth that are needed to increase prosperity in the region.” (red)

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