The APEC platform is composed of various policy-making and technical-level fora, each with a particular sector or topic of focus. APEC Leaders and Ministers as chief policymakers define the policy direction of the region, which in turn officials of government and technical experts are instructed to implement throughout the APEC year.
The Senior Officials’ Meeting is the repository of all the activities, initiatives, and policy recommendations emanating from the more than thirty APEC technical working groups and committees. At the Concluding Senior Officials’ Meeting, as their final meeting before the Leaders’ Summit, Officials are tasked to process the year’s worth of work, prioritizing deliverables (e.g. action plans and statements) to be endorsed to Ministers and Leaders, for adoption.
The APEC process thus comes full circle when the Ministers and Leaders, in the form of the Joint (Foreign Affairs and Trade) Ministerial Statement and Leaders’ Declaration, issue their policy guidance for the APEC year ahead and long-term vision.
APEC 2015 had a total of 229 meetings, including meetings under the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process, sectoral ministerial meetings and high-level policy dialogues, and the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) as the private sector arm of APEC.
These meetings identified and developed the following policies, initiatives, and programs, among others:
Inclusive Growth through Regional Economic Integration
• Every year, APEC reaffirms its commitment to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a non-binding forum, APEC serves as an incubator of ideas and policy pathfinder for areas that are deemed sensitive in more formal negotiations. Through APEC, participating WTO members have been able to gain ground in the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and in the negotiations for the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).
• To further APEC’s multi-year efforts towards the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), APEC has made progress in the conduct of the Collective Strategic Study on Issues Related to the Realization of the FTAAP including the establishment of a core drafting group. The Study will be completed by the end of 2016. In August, the Philippines also hosted a Seminar on the FTAAP which included rich discussion on how ongoing regional trade agreement negotiations, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) relate and contribute to an FTAAP.
• In 2015, APEC Structural Reform Ministers endorsed the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (RAASR) as the continuation of APEC’s structural reform work program until 2020. The RAASR reaffirms economies’ commitment to accelerate our efforts to address institution building in our economies through structural reform and targeted capacity building on economic governance, unilateral reforms aimed at further improving the services sector, regulatory infrastructure, and competition policy.
• This November, Leaders are expected to endorse the APEC Services Cooperation Framework (ASCF) as a long-term strategic document, which will provide a common direction and more coherence in APEC’s work on services and help economies gain a deeper understanding of the policy and regulatory settings that will best facilitate innovative, productive, and vibrant services sectors, as appropriate to their needs. This Framework recognizes that more competitive services sectors help create jobs, produce quality goods, widen choices for consumers, and harness opportunities for businesses particularly for micro, small, and medium enterprises. The ASCF is complemented by the APEC Virtual Knowledge Center (to be launched at CSOM), the APEC Services Trade Access Requirements (STAR) Database, and the recently endorsed Manufacturing-Related Services Action Plan and Environmental Services Action Plan.
• The Philippines as host economy, in partnership with ABAC and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, organized the APEC 2015 Public-Private Dialogues on Services and the Regional Conference of Services Coalitions to discuss ways to address impediments to and facilitate services trade growth. The Regional Conference also served as the preparatory meeting to launch the AsiaPacific Coalition of Services, touted to be the largest services coalition the world.
• APEC Finance Ministers developed the Cebu Action Plan (CAP), which works on four pillars: (i) promoting financial integration; (ii) advancing fiscal reforms and transparency; (iii) enhancing financial resiliency; and (iv) accelerating infrastructure development and financing. The CAP is a roadmap and a living a document that will guide economies promote intra-regional trade and investments, connectivity, infrastructure development, and MSME and supply chain financing.
• Trade Ministers developed the Boracay Action Agenda (BAA) to Globalize MSMEs which outlines actions that are practical and important for MSMEs’ participation in global trade, such as access to finance, e-commerce, and markets. APEC officials have also developed an Implementation Plan which will guide economies to identify areas of convergence across APEC fora, and work with ABAC on complementary projects and efficient use of resources in implementing MSME initiatives.
• The BAA is complemented by the APEC Iloilo Initiative: Growing Global SMEs for Inclusive Development which is a guiding framework for integrating SMEs into international trade and global value chains. APEC has also introduced the APEC MSME Marketplace as a tool to promote cooperation and linkage across MSMEs and other stakeholders.
• With APEC’s guidance, economies are on track to fulfil the ground-breaking commitment to reduce applied tariffs on the APEC List of 54 Environmental Goods to five percent or less by the end of this year, as agreed by Leaders in 2012.
• APEC will launch the APEC Trade Repository (APECTR) as a one-stop portal for information on trade-related regulations, in line with member economies’ commitment to transparency and predictability in trade.
• 2015 marked the first year of implementation of the APEC Blueprint on Connectivity for 2015-2025, endorsed by APEC Leaders in Beijing last year. The Blueprint guides member economies in undertaking specific actions in the pillars of physical (i.e. roads, bridges, ports, and telecommunications infrastructure), institutional (i.e. government-to-government, university-touniversity, and structural reform measures), and people-to-people connectivity (i.e. through travel, tourism, education, business engagement and exchange).
• To advance infrastructure development in the region, economies continue to implement the APEC Multi-Year Plan on Infrastructure Development and Investment (MYPIDI), the Reference Guide for Peer Review and Capacity Building on APEC Infrastructure Development and Investment, the Study on Infrastructure Investment in the APEC Region. APEC also recognizes Individual economies’ work on enhancing regional and sub-regional connectivity.
• APEC has developed Investment Facilitation Action Plan (IFAP) priority actions for 2015-2016. Economies are encouraged to support a more predictable and transparent investment climate and strengthen the role of investment as a driver of growth and jobs. On infrastructure investment specifically, APEC has welcomed the publication of the Guidebook on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Frameworks in the APEC Region as a useful reference for APEC economies in developing PPP infrastructure frameworks. Capacity building in this area will be strengthened by the initiatives of the APEC PPP Experts Advisory Panel.
• Economies have welcomed the interim progress report on the Supply Chain Connectivity Framework Action Plan (SCFAP) in support of our Leaders’ APECwide target of achieving a 10% improvement in supply chain performance. APEC will continue to move towards this goal by participating in the Capacity Building Plan to Improve Supply Chain Performance, particularly on pre-arrival processing, expedited shipments, advance rulings, release of goods and electronic payments. Other ongoing APEC programs include the Single Window, Advanced Risk Management, Passenger Name Record, Asia-Pacific Model EPort Network (APMEN), and Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) which will help develop trade facilitation frameworks that allow efficient transport of legitimate cargo processing
• APEC has developed Principles on the Movement of Humanitarian Goods and Equipment to facilitate the movement of goods and equipment to disaster areas, address potential capacity gaps in APEC economies, and strengthen cooperation among government institutions, business, and local communities.
• APEC recognizes the constructive role of the internet and digital economy in harnessing the full potential of businesses and economies, taking into account the need to bridge the digital divide. Through the Ad Hoc Steering Group on the Internet Economy, APEC promotes cooperation and facilitates technological and policy exchanges on cross-cutting internet and digital economy issues.
• 2015 marks the mid-term assessment of the Travel Facilitation Initiative (TFI) launched by Leaders in 2011 as “a cross-cutting initiative to expedite the movement of travelers across the Asia-Pacific region, with the goal of enabling more efficient, more secure, and less stressful travel” (TFI Progress Report). The TFI focuses on promoting improvements in such key areas as passenger security screening, immigration and customs processing, fostering regional adoption of best practices for airports, and the pursuit of next generation approaches to facilitating regional travel. The TFI encompasses six main pillars: the Airport Partnership Program, the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC), the Trusted Traveler Program, Air Passenger Security Screening, Advance Passenger Information (API), and Checked Baggage Facilitation.
• Economies confirmed the extension of validity of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) from three to a maximum of five years beginning 01 September 2015. The ABTC allows business people to travel visa-free in the APEC region (implemented by 19 out of 21 economies)
Inclusive Growth through Good Governance
• Under the Philippines’ chairmanship, APEC’s discussions have gone beyond the traditional discussions on trade and investment. This year APEC’s discussions have expanded to discussions on development and the unique relationship between trade and development. APEC member economies are discussing ways to achieve quality economic growth through good governance measures.
• APEC has thus put forward an APEC Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth that embeds the principles of institution building, social cohesion/equity, and concern for environmental impact of economic/industrial activities as new dimensions with which growth should be pursued. The Strategy underscores how quality growth is about the economic well-being of every individual and of every economy, focusing on how growth can be sustained over the medium- to long-term. Thus, governments of each APEC economy are called to ensure the principles of good governance, transparency, and inclusion in their individual economic pursuits.
• In the next 5 years until 2020, this document will serve as a strategic guide for APEC as an institution and as individual economies in strengthening quality growth through agreed initiatives that could be pursued collectively or unilaterally. Initiatives cover various areas: health, access to quality education, skills training, mobility, MSMEs’ access to capital, and preparedness for and resilience to disasters such as by adopting set principles for the movement of humanitarian goods during disasters. The Framework also supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, reduce inequality, and ensure the well-being of all.
Inclusive Growth through Resilient and Sustainable Communities
• APEC 2015 discussions have thus focused on the human and societal dimensions of our APEC work: such as actions to address the core issues of income disparity, access to food and water, disruptive and abrupt technological shifts, changing demographics, problems of uncontrolled urbanization, pandemics, disaster risks, and climate change.
• The work of the APEC Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG) this has been geared towards developing 21st century skills that increase people’s employability, productivity, and ability to respond to emerging business demands. Their work includes programs aimed at promoting competitiveness by facilitating the mobility of skilled labor, and ensuring the quality of skills and competencies that meet supply chain demands of the region. Current projects include the APEC Labor Market Portal, APEC Occupational Standards Referencing Framework, APEC Vocational Training Project in Cooperation with Enterprises, HRDWG 2015-2018 Action Plan directed towards vulnerable groups in society, such as persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as mobile workers. • APEC advocates cross-border education, inter-university collaboration on science and technology, and the international mobility of academics, researchers, and students. APEC also calls on economies to put science, technology, and innovation as well as higher education at the forefront of economic policy-making and strategic planning.
• This year, APEC met its target of 1 million intra-APEC university-level students per year by 2020, through the contributions of the APEC Higher Education Research Center and APEC Scholarship Initiative
• APEC recognizes the significant role women play in the economy. APEC has developed the Strategic Plan of the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE) 2015-2018 to advance women’s full and equal economic participation through improved access to capital and assets; access to markets; skills, capacity building, and health; women’s leadership, voice, and agency; innovation and technology.
• Projects include the Women and the Economy Dashboard to track, measure, and communicate progress in reducing barriers to women’s economic participation; the Guide in Gender Criteria for APEC Project Proposal to ensure mainstreaming of gender perspectives across APEC; and the Policy Toolkit on Healthy Women, Healthy Economy to improve the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of women in the workplace.
• The APEC Disaster Risk Reduction Framework facilitates collective work in building adaptive and disaster-resilient economies supporting inclusive and sustainable development in the face of the “new normal” – the increasing frequency, magnitude and scope of natural disasters, and the resultant disruption on the increasingly integrated and interlinked production and supply chains. The Framework enables collaboration in the four interoperable and mutually reinforcing pillars, namely: Prevention and Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Rehabilitation and Build Back Better.
• The APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy Plan of Action enhances efforts to ensure the security of the region’s food supply and sustainable agricultural and water management. The plan ensures all citizens have access to food through the reduction in waste and loss along the food supply chain, agribusiness promotion, market development, and open and fair trade that enable the integration of small scale fishers and fish farmers into global food chains.
• APEC economies are working on the aspirational target of reducing aggregate energy intensity by 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2035 through collaboration on energy-efficient and low carbon development. APEC is also committed to prioritize clean and renewable energy technologies, taking into account APEC’s aspirational goal of doubling the shares of renewables in the APEC energy mix from 2010 levels by 2030.
• APEC commits to accelerate our efforts to enhance productivity through safe, secure, efficient, and sustainable transportation systems, and to promote innovations in the transportation sector as we move towards achieving inclusive mobility and global supply chain resilience. To this end, APEC implements the APEC Supply-Chain Connectivity Framework Action Plan through projects including: Promoting Regional Economic Integration by Deriving Supply Chain Connectivity Benefits over Cross-Cutting Issues in Transport, Energy, Environment and Human Health; Global Supply Chain Resilience (Phase 3); and IMO International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code Implementation Assistance Program (ICIAP).
• APEC commits to enhance the economic empowerment of persons with disabilities and to eliminate barriers to their economic participation. To contribute to the development of a disability-inclusive economy, APEC established the APEC Group of Friends on Disability to promote sharing of information, resources and good practices on disability issues among APEC members. APEC is also developing an Inclusive Mobility Framework in 2016 aimed to develop safe, secure and accessible transportation for persons with disabilities.