APEC ends with commitment to regional infrastructure

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APEC ends with commitment to regional infrastructure


Leaders of the Asia-Pacific region, including Korean President Park Geun-hye (sixth from left), pose for a group photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia, yesterday. The annual APEC gathering gives regional leaders the opportunity to thrash out policies encouraging trade and business, while tackling country-to-country issues in meetings on the sidelines. [Joint Press Corps]

Wrapping up a two-day summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group yesterday vowed to extend by one year a “standstill commitment” not to institute new protectionist measures.

“While trade growth and investment flows within the APEC region have outperformed the rest of the world, we should nevertheless guard against the pressure to raise new trade and investment barriers,” said the APEC leaders’ joint declaration. “To that end, we extended our standstill commitment until the end of 2016 and reaffirmed our pledge to roll back protectionist and trade-distorting measures.”

The leaders also announced their commitment to cooperating in developing, maintaining and renewing member economies’ physical infrastructure through a multiyear plan on infrastructure development and investment. As an initial step they agreed to establish an APEC Experts Advisory Panel and a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Center in Indonesia.

President Park Geun-hye echoed the importance of boosting infrastructure for better physical connectivity among the members and of inviting private companies to participate in infrastructure construction. To this end, she promised to expand financial support for the projects and share Korea’s experience of involving the private sector in national infrastructure building.

“For APEC nations to be more tightly connected, adding infrastructure physically linking them is most crucial,” she said on the second day of the summit in Bali. “Since massive investment for a long period is required for infrastructure and public resources are limited, encouraging private sector investment is needed.”

Park cited the example of Korea’s intelligent transportation system, which makes it possible for drivers or logistics firms to get real-time transportation information using global positioning systems (GPS). Korea will apply the system to all four-lane roads nationwide by 2020, which is expected to slash logistics costs by up to $11.3 billion, Park explained.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a similar point during a keynote speech at the APEC CEO summit on Sunday. He called for more investment and better infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region to stimulate economic growth.

“APEC needs to tackle inefficiency in the supply chain, we have to make it easier, cheaper and faster to conduct trade in goods and services across borders,” Yudhoyono said.

A Blue House official said infrastructure building projects across Asia-Pacific nations are estimated to cost $8 trillion in the coming decade and Park was laying the strategic groundwork for Korean companies to join in the projects. The APEC forum includes 21 members across the Asia-Pacific region, who account for some 55 percent of global gross domestic product and 44 percent of world trade.

In an interview with the Jakarta Post, an English daily in Indonesia, Park warned against moves by some nations to raise trade protection in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis.

“History has taught us that in the face of growing economic difficulties, all countries must come together to expand openness and promote trade,” she said in the written interview. “In this respect, I believe it is important that the leaders at the APEC meeting agree to extend the standstill against protectionist measures through the end of 2016 and work together to ensure that all countries carry out a rollback of protectionist and trade-distorting measures.”

Over the course of the APEC summit, Park had bilateral meetings with leaders of China, Canada, Mexico and Peru, mostly dealing with trade and economics.

Arriving in Brunei for two days of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meetings later yesterday, she had bilateral talks scheduled with Singapore, Australia and Myanmar today.

The conversations are expected to center around business given that Asean is Korea’s largest investment destination and second-largest construction customer.

Blue House officials say bilateral meetings tend to bear tangible results. They are shorter but more efficient than multilateral talks. “Multilateral meetings may have a visible cause but bilateral are more substantive,” said an official.

“The biggest goal of the presidential tour this time is accelerating FTA agreements through bilateral meetings,” said Cho Won-dong, senior secretary to the president for economic affairs.

Analysts say bilateral talks are crucial for Korea because it still remains undecided on whether to join the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral free trade agreement aimed at further liberalizing the economies of 12 Pacific Rim countries. Park was predicted by some foreign reports to announce Korea joining the TPP at the APEC summit, but she did not.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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