The Jakarta Post
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) needs to focus on a few specific goals in order to remain relevant for its members, a regional advisory council says.
Jusuf Wanandi, the co-chair of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), said on Thursday that the 21-member organization currently lacked specific goals and an orientation toward outcome, which meant initiatives established by the regional cooperation forum tended to be too diffuse.
As the chair of APEC this year, Indonesia, for instance, aims to endorse more than 20 deliverables for approval by the other members.
'APEC now works on broad issues. What are missing are priorities. So far there are no efforts to consolidate. APEC should focus on a few things and get them done,' he said.
The idea emerged as one of the key findings of an annual survey conducted by the council titled 'State of the Region 2013-2014' launched on Thursday on the sidelines of APEC leaders week in Bali.
The survey carried out in July and August involved 560 respondents representing governments, businesses and non-government groups in 28 Asia-Pacific economies, including APEC members.
More than a half of the respondents, who were leaders of regional opinion, suggested that to cope with the situation, APEC required a set of inspirational targets to make its work more effective.
APEC previously adopted clear targets, such as the Bogor Goals launched in 1994, which contained a commitment to embrace a free and open trade and investment regime by 2010 for developed economies and by 2020 for developing economies and specific targets to cut transaction costs through trade facilitation action plans.
Founded in 1989, APEC accounts for 40 percent of the world's population, 54 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 44 percent of global trade.
Members that have already approved opening up trade with each other through most-favored nation terms have gradually cut import duties from 17 percent in 2002 to 5.8 percent in 2010. Between 2007 and 2010, APEC economies also reduced transaction costs by 5 percent, which has resulted in savings of US$58.7 billion for business.
Djisman Simanjuntak, the chair of the Indonesian PECC Committee, acknowledged that such inspirational targets would be vital as APEC inched nearer to the deadline for the Bogor Goals.
'Apart from this, liberalization has advanced in this region, albeit through various forums outside APEC,' Djisman said.
'It needs new aspirational targets and one of them may be connectivity in the Asia-Pacific that connects APEC seamlessly in terms of people movement, food flows, services and financial transactions,' he added.
During the concluding senior officials meeting on Wednesday, Indonesia got the nod from other members to endorse a connectivity framework and multi-year plans for investment in infrastructure development, expected to help ease the flow of goods, services, investment and labor across the region.
Another survey has shown that since the establishment of the Bogor Goals, economies in the region have experienced unprecedented growth, with incomes more than doubling, lifting more than 500 million people out of poverty. This re-affirms the notion that trade and investment liberalization as well as facilitation have a positive impact on incomes in member nations.
However, as APEC advances with its gradual liberalization, income equality has also been on the rise. The income share of the bottom 10 percent in many economies has dropped as the share of the top 10 percent rose sharply.
Frederico Macaranas, an economist at the Manila-based Asian Institute of Management, said that APEC should be able to translate the themes of each rotating chairmanship every year into concrete action plans with real impacts on people's lives and that the Bogor Goals on equitable development should be implemented.