Sunday, December 10, 2017

APEC 2017 Outcomes and Looking Forward

Wayne Chen

After 10 years, Vietnam again hosted APEC in 2017 and held the Summit in Da Nang in November. Under the theme of Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future, 4 priority areas were identified, namely, 1) Fostering Sustainable, Innovative and Inclusive Growth; 2) Deepening Regional Economic Integration; 3) Strengthening MSMEs’ Competitiveness and Innovation in the Digital Age, and; 4) Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change.
Advancing Inclusive Growth is crucial to Build the APEC Community

Different from years past, APEC 2017 gives high priority to inclusive growth as reflected by the sequence of the priority areas. That is Fostering Sustainable, Innovative and Inclusive Growth replaced the issue of Deepening Regional Economic Integration at the first place among all the 4 priority areas. On the other hand, Viet Nam proposed the APEC Action Agenda on Promoting Economic, Financial and Social Inclusion in the APEC Region which was endorsed by Leaders and adopted as one annex of the Leaders’ Declaration. The Inclusion Action Agenda aims to improve regional inclusive growth by advancing three key pillars: Economic Inclusion, which refers to equality of accessing economic opportunities for all citizens and to meaningfully participate in economic activities; Financial Inclusion, which implies that equal access to useful and affordable financial products and services to meet people’s needs is essential; and Social Inclusion, which is defined as the process of improving engagement in society for vulnerable groups and people in remote areas and poverty. Inclusive growth, one of the 5 attributes of APEC Leaders’ Growth Strategy, was highly attended for the first time after APEC 2015 renewed the Growth Strategy. The Inclusion Action Agenda also shows that APEC is extending its endeavor of boosting economic growth to enhancing quality of growth. The gradual shift from economic growth agenda to sustainable development context revealed by APEC 2017 is no doubt one significant legacy Vietnam left in APEC.

Along the line of emphasizing inclusive growth, the APEC Framework on Human Resources Development in the Digital Age was selected as the other annex of Leaders’ Declaration this year is. Advancing working skill of current labors as well as education systems for students to adapt to the forthcoming digital era are crucial to release business potentials of citizens and improve access to economic opportunities for youths, women, and people in remote areas. APEC 2017 in so doing attaches great importance to capacity building and training programs as pathways to inclusive growth. The primary initiatives of APEC 2017 are sorted by 4 priority areas as shown in Table1.

Table one: Primary Initiatives of APEC 2017
Priority Areas
Primary Initiatives
Fostering Sustainable, Innovative and Inclusive Growth
APEC Action Agenda on Promoting Economic, Financial and Social Inclusion in the APEC Region
APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap
APEC Framework on Human Resources Development in the Digital Age
Deepening Regional Economic Integration
APEC Cross-Border E-commerce Facilitation Framework
Monitoring Framework of APEC Supply-Chain Connectivity Framework Action Plan (SCFAP) II 2017-2020
APEC Best Practices for Promoting Supporting Industry in the Asia Pacific Region
Strengthening MSMEs’ Competitiveness and Innovation in the Digital Age
APEC Strategy for Green, Sustainable and Innovative MSMEs
APEC Initiative on Promoting Innovative Start-Ups
Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change
Food Security and Climate Change Multi-Year Action Plan (MYAP) 2018-2020
Action Plan on Rural-Urban Development to Strengthen Food Security and Quality Growth

In this light, Economic and Technical Cooperation is further addressed besides the pillar of Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation, particularly on empowerment and narrowing development gap across the APEC region facing the rapid increasing challenges of automation and digitalization. The APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap conducted in 2017 is a cornerstone in this regard and will serve as a guideline to identify potential areas of cooperation and coordinate efforts of APEC economies on promoting Internet and Digital Economy. 11 key focus areas were highlighted in the Roadmap and would be concentrated for years to come, they are 1) Development of digital infrastructure; 2) Promotion of Interoperability; 3) Achievement of universal broadband access; 4) Development of holistic government policy frameworks; 5) Promoting coherence and cooperation of regulatory approaches affecting the Internet and Digital Economy; 6) Promoting innovation and adoption of enabling technologies and services; 7) Enhancing trust and security in the use of ICTs; 8) Facilitating the free flow of information and data; 9) Improvement of baseline Internet and Digital Economy measurements; 10) Enhancing inclusiveness of Internet and Digital Economy, and 11) Facilitation of E-commerce and Advancing Cooperation on Digital Trade.

Papua New Guinea will further Inclusive Growth and Internet Economy

According to the latest documents for the preparation of the Initial Senior Official Meeting to be held in Port Moresby, the theme and priority areas of APEC 2018 are:
Theme: Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future
Priority Areas:
1.       Improving Connectivity, Deepening Regional Economic Integration.
2.       Promoting Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.
3.       Strengthening Inclusive Growth through Structural Reform.

Apparently, inclusive growth will continue to be centered among APEC works and discussion for the coming year and further associated with the internet economy. Utilizing Information and Communication technologies (ICT) is now new and has been recognized as one important means to promote innovative development and empower economic participation of citizens especially youth, women and people living in far. For example, the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) Initiative proposed by Taiwan is well known for narrowing and transforming digital gap into digital opportunities across the Asia-Pacific.

However, current internet economy driven by industry 4.0 and new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, is an even more powerful driver for economy and penetrating in people’s living in a more holistic manner. Opportunities brought by the new wave of technological innovations also refer to fast-evolving challenges requiring rapid response on training and education, infrastructure, industrial development, regulatory reform, and so on.

Particularly for developing economies who are lack of capital and human power on the promotion economic and social transformation facing such challenges. Considering Papua New Guinea’s intra-regional and domestic development challenges and priorities, it is not surprising that drawing resources and expertise to accelerate its pace towards a digital future is of high priority and will be intensively attended in APEC 2018.     
(Wayne Chen is an Associate Research Fellow, TIER)

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