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Lima APEC outlines priorities against rising scepticism about globalization

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-17 15:30

LIMA - With leaders of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) set to gather in Lima, Peru during the weekend, a detailed policy agenda has been laid out ahead of their arrival.

The meeting is designed to expand economic opportunities for those that have reaped fewer benefits from open, integrated markets in the past, and improve economic growth rate and living standards for the 3 billion people of a region that accounts for 49 percent of the world trade volume and 57 percent of the global GDP. It also must contend with an upsurging negative views about globalization.

Luis Quesada, chair of 2016 APEC Senior Officials, on Wednesday detailed the priorities to be discussed by ministers on Nov 17-18 and the economic leaders at the weekend.

The first priority is investment in human resources to cultivate a workforce suitable for the 21st century, especially in terms of innovation and new technologies, according to Quesada. The talks earlier this week outlined support for more business-compatible, productive staff through education reform, career training and enhanced skill development.

The second priority concerns the modernization of small- and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs), which APEC hails as a pillar of developed and developing economies alike, as well as their integration into the global value chains.

Quesada highlighted the accomplishments made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries with regards to SMEs, hailing them as an example for APEC. SMEs account for over 97 percent of the total firms and the majority of employment in the region.

The third is food security and access to water, an area where Quesada acknowledged more efforts needed to be made.

According to him, APEC has not made the same progress in lifting tariffs for food and agricultural products as it has for manufacturing. Doing so would allow the public to have access to a broader range of food choices and improve food security.

All these priorities will be discussed under the umbrella of globalization, especially when the APEC members ponder the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

A recent rise in protectionist sentiments, manifested by Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, is leading APEC members to consider how to continue globalization policies.

"There is a firm belief across APEC in the enduring power of globalization and trade to build prosperity in the region," said Quesada. "The advantages of these forces must be more evenly felt to sustain public confidence in them."

In the eyes of Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, APEC's non-legally binding platform sets it apart from a backlash directed towards legally-binding economic integration mechanisms.

"In the current environment, the region's soft approach to globalization and trade could be the best way forward. It offers incremental, yet significant change that is not just tolerated but actually welcomed by all corners of society," he concluded.

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