Who needs APEC? You do.

24 May 2019

There is a role for business to play as APEC looks to further regional economic integration while navigating its way through trade and geopolitical turbulence in the region.

As the saying goes, no country gets rich selling things to itself. That is why since its establishment in 1989, APEC has encouraged trade and investment liberalisation through advancing initiatives that matter to business.

As APEC looks to shape its post-2020 agenda, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wants to hear from Australian businesses about what APEC can do for you.

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Ideas from Australian business are sought on what practical programs APEC could undertake to encourage regional economic integration, to help advance efforts to facilitate increased services trade and investment across the region.

APEC works by bringing together experts – from the highest levels of government, business and academia – to look at how to overcome barriers to trade and build capacity throughout the APEC region. It works as a consensus-driven forum for non‑binding and exploratory discussions, making it an ideal platform to work towards common goals.

Its value proposition for business is its convening power: connecting CEOs to government leaders and ministers, providing an opportunity to engage on and advocate for economic and trade policy.

Business has an important role to play in identifying the barriers to trade and working with governments to address these. For example, emerging technologies and the challenges of digital trade increasingly loom large on the APEC agenda.

Structural reform and addressing non-tariff barriers are further examples, as are lowering barriers to services trade and foreign investment.

On digital trade and the digital economy, progress to ensure an open, accessible and secure environment for growth in this sector would lead to significant gains for Australia and APEC economies as a whole. Business views would be welcome on what can be done practically to increase the ease of doing business digitally.

Having business play a prominent role in affirming the importance of APEC’s core objectives of promoting free and open trade and investment would also underpin confidence in the multilateral trading system at a time when it is under strain, and world economic conditions are uncertain as a result.

If you would like to engage APEC, contact DFAT’s APEC team at APEC@dfat.gov.au.

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What do Australian businesses get out of APEC?

There are many examples of practical initiatives that APEC has championed for business.

These include faster customs procedures through centralised electronic processing; improved supply chain connectivity; greater ease in starting a business, getting credit or applying for permits; and the APEC Business Travel Card, which makes it simpler for business people to travel.

All of this while bringing opportunities for Australian consumers and businesses in a region that is home to 2.9 billion people and accounts for around 60 per cent of world GDP.

But while average tariffs in APEC economies have come down from around 17 per cent in 1989 to under 6 per cent today and the Asia-Pacific region’s real
GDP since 1989 has more than doubled to over US$43 trillion, recent trade and geopolitical tensions have increased economic uncertainty in the region.

In APEC’s capacity as an incubator of ideas, Australia benefits by using APEC to advocate our interests among our partners in the region, while undertaking a range of practical initiatives to further trade and investment among APEC’s members.

This is particularly pertinent for global trade, with Australia continuing to affirm the benefits of trade at a time when there are divergent views. Free and open markets gives all Australians increased product choice and provides Australian businesses with access to a wider range of skills and expertise. Australia’s openness to trade and investment has underpinned our 27 years of continued annual economic growth.
Businesses should ensure their voices are heard as APEC looks to set strategic directions that ensure the region’s prosperity in the digital age.

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APEC Business Advisory Council

We also encourage business to utilise linkages to APEC governments through APEC’s private-sector arm, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

ABAC has a mandate to advise leaders, ministers and officials on the interests, priorities and concerns of the business sector. Australia’s current representatives to ABAC are Sir Rod Eddington AO, Mr Robert Milliner and Mr Tom Harley, with support from the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT University in Melbourne.
ABAC is an influential piece of APEC architecture. Through its representatives, ABAC holds industry consultations before presenting recommendations on policy actions to Leaders at the annual APEC Leaders’ Week meeting. It therefore helps to ensure that APEC initiatives are commercially relevant and responsive to new business trends and developments.

ABAC, in its 2018 report to Leaders, called for support for the integrity of the international trading system and for greater engagement with civil society and business to explain the benefits of trade liberalisation.

ABAC highlighted the need to ensure the benefits of trade are more widely shared through real income growth for lower and middle-income groups. The need for governments to work closely with the private sector to address challenges with the digital economy was also raised.

For more information visit Australian APEC Study Centre

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Last Updated: 14 May 2019
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