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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Implications for the Promotion of Sustainable and Inclusive Growth at APEC 2018

                                                                                                    Wayne.Chen.

     As Papua New Guinea hosts APEC for the first time this year, APEC member economies are conducting in-depth discussions on a group of priority issues in order to plan their works for the year. Under the theme of "Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future," APEC
this year has for the first time elevated the internet and digital economy to a central topic, and has linked it together with the issue of inclusive growth which emerged as a focus in APEC 2017. This annual theme reflects the organization's continued promotion of the APEC Leaders' Growth Strategy
of 2010, as well as its expansion under the APEC Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth (2015) in support of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and other overarching initiatives.
   
     Prompted by the central themes of inclusion and the internet economy, APEC 2018 has defined three main priority areas, namely "improving connectivity and deepening regional economic integration," "promoting inclusive and sustainable growth," and "strengthening economic growth
through structural reform." These priorities together reflect Papua New Guinea's promotion of plans for connectivity and structural reforms that can further regional cooperation on the core goal of inclusive and sustainable growth.

Inclusive Growth as a Key Focus of Asia-Pacific and International Cooperation

     The deliverables achieved at APEC 2017 show that inclusive growth has already become a key focus of economic cooperation among APEC economies, who continue to pursue that goal by increasing inclusiveness in their economies, societies, and financial planning.
   
     APEC's pursuit of inclusive growth first became apparent in 2010 with the APEC Leaders' Growth Strategy, which emphasizes the need during economic recovery for the international community to pursue not just growth in economic indicators, but also to consider the quality of growth. In other
words, growth should be balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative, and secure. In 2015, to advance the Leaders' Growth Strategy, APEC released its Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth, which seeks to strengthen cooperation with other international organizations on related issues. For example, much of what APEC has done on this issue has incorporated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on eliminating poverty and hunger, advancing hygiene and sanitation, increasing investment in digital infrastructure, cutting environmental pollution, and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.
   
     APEC 2018 has also incorporated a number of projects under the UN Sustainable Development Goals that relate to APEC's own growth strategy and broader policy goals. This year's sessions will also discuss the increasingly important topics of what will carry the Bogor Goals forward after 2020,
including discussions on the digital economy and on renewing its growth strategy. In this vein, the priority area of sustainable and inclusive growth will involve 3 important issues: (1) promoting sustainable and inclusive development through corporate social responsibility; (2) gender inclusion;
and (3) promoting food security.

Implications for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

1. Promoting Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

     APEC 2018 will discuss how to promote and share best practices on sustainability, measurability and transparency in order to ensure that resources are used for the greatest possible economic benefit while reducing negative effects on the environment and leaving resources intact for future generations. Topics under discussion will include responsible resource management for the fishing, forestry, agriculture, energy, mining and tourism sectors, among others. APEC is also broadening private sector participation, strengthening public-private partnerships and promoting corporate social
responsibility initiatives.

     On corporate social responsibility, governments have undertaken to use regulations and partner with business in promoting good practices and governance to ensure sustainable use of resources, to secure equal opportunity, and to share the fruits of economic development, especially among women, youth, the disabled, indigenous groups and others who are less advantaged.

2. Gender Inclusion

     Economic growth has already helped lift millions out of poverty, but women and other less advantaged groups still lack equal opportunity, and there is still a wealth gap between those in urban and rural areas. APEC 2018 will discuss inclusion as an approach to ensure that "no one is left behind" by the ongoing wave of globalization. As the role of women in contributing to regional economic development has already been widely acknowledged, APEC will continue to promote the work of gender mainstreaming in order to increase women's empowerment, to help women realize their potential, and to push for regional economic integration.

3. Promoting Food Security

     APEC members and countries all over the world take seriously the issue of food security, as demonstrated in the second UN Sustainable Development Goal of "end[ing] hunger, achiev[ing] food security and improved nutrition and promot[ing] sustainable agriculture." APEC leaders have announced their intention to promote sustainable agriculture, food security, forest management, fishing and aquaculture to protect natural resources, while also approving communications equipment and other related technological innovations to improve regional food security.
 
     Aside from its ongoing promotion of the APEC Food Security Road Map towards 2020, APEC has also drafted the APEC Multi-year Action Plan on Food Security and Climate Change and the APEC Action Plan on Rural-Urban Development to Strengthen Food Security and Quality Growth, the initiatives of which are officially to come into effect in 2018. APEC member economies will draft their own food security action plans in line with these proposals, and will discuss possible technological and digital approaches for meeting their designated roles on the issue of food security.

Expected Outcomes 

1. Promoting Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

     First, to promote inclusive and sustainable resource development with a focus on natural resource management agencies, including those related to forestry, agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism; second, to increase opportunities for MSMEs to access the global value chains; and third, to submit policy proposals on promoting inclusive and sustainable resource development to APEC economic Leaders, Ministers, and senior officials.

2. Gender Inclusion

     First, to use sector-specific approaches to promote gender inclusivity and women's economic empowerment; second, to create models to drive gender inclusion and female economic empowerment, including through a focus on ideal gender roles for men; third, to promote proposals on healthy women and healthy economies, especially those relating to healthy workplaces and
safety; and fourth, to promote discussions on women and the digital age.

3. Promoting Food Security

     First, to promote sustainable fishery management and smart agriculture to increase food security; second, to promote discussions of women in agricultural agencies to increase food security; third, to start the first stage of the APEC Multi-year Action Plan on Food Security; and fourth, to submit
policy proposals on promoting fisheries management, smart agriculture, and promotion of food security to APEC leaders, ministers, and senior ministers.

Observations and Recommendations

     An overall look at the priority areas of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth reveals that these implications are closely linked to many issues important to Taiwan. In the field of sustainable and inclusive growth, energy security is one of the most pressing issues facing Taiwan, which is
working on energy-smart communities, financing for renewable energy, and energy security. As the current chair of the Energy Working Group, Taiwan can wield significant influence on these issues.

     On gender inclusion, Taiwan is in the position of being an opinion leader on this issue, especially since APEC 2017, when Taiwan joined with the US and Australia to launch the APEC Women and the Economy Subfund. The establishment of this sub-fund further demonstrates the lead that
Taiwan is taking on gender mainstreaming and women economy. Aside from its promotion of the issue of gender mainstreaming within APEC, Taiwan also has plenty of room for progress on women's economic empowerment, women's education, and women's inclusion in the workplace.

     On the issue of food security, Taiwan is pushing the APEC Multi-Year Project on Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships to Reduce Food Losses in the Supply Chain, which has already completed several theoretical studies and yielded useful tools. This important project is not just a means of realizing multiple large-scale APEC proposals, it is a direct way of supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, it is necessary on each issue to pay attention to the related issue of corporate responsibility, for the main reason that this issue has been neglected in the past. When corporate social responsibility has been brought up in the relatively closed-off mining sector, and when it was discussed at ABAC, corporate representatives challenged its definition, implications for and relevance to economic development, showing that the private sector is still wary of this
topic and that there is a need to explore it with extra care within APEC.


(Wayne.Chen.is.an.Associate.Research.Fellow.at.the.Taiwan.Institute.of.Economic.
Research)

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