Highlights from the First Day of Trade and Investment Week

18 November 2013

Launch of the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2013 ‘Turning the Tide: Towards Inclusive Trade and Investment’

The Asia-Pacific region needs to move beyond the orthodox model of export-led growth, and towards inclusive trade and investment that benefits all, a new United Nations report released here today said. According to the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2013 ‘Turning the Tide: Towards Inclusive Trade and Investment’ published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asia-Pacific region continues to outperform the rest of the world in the pace of overall growth, with trade-led expansion continuing to feed the region’s economic dynamism. Yet strong trade- and investment-led growth in the region has been accompanied by rising inequalities.

"The overarching message of this year’s Report is that securing continuing growth of trade and investments remains among the top economic priorities for the region, but this comes with the realization that the quality and patterns of growth must also be enhanced," said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and ESCAP Executive Secretary. "We need trade and investment to generate inclusive growth and shared prosperity, building the productive capacities of our countries."

Commenting on the report, Watcharas Leelawath, Executive Director, International Institute for Trade and Development (ITD), Thailand , said "Inequality in the region is the problem in the region which needs to be urgently addressed. This report is a wake-up call for Governments in the region."

The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report provides independent analysis of regional trends and developments in: trade and investment; trade facilitation; usage of protectionist measures; and preferential trade policies and agreements. Amongst the report’s findings, regional demand was shown not to be exempt to enduring weakness in major external economies. The report estimates that merchandise exports and imports of the regions developing economies will see growth below 6% in real terms in 2013. A modest improvement to 7% is expected in 2014. Additionally, the report finds unacceptably high trade costs undermine benefits for least developed and landlocked developing countries.

Responsible business conduct is an essential component of inclusive growth

The ESCAP – OECD Conference on Regional Cooperation in Advancing Responsible Business Practices focused on what Governments in the region are doing and can do, by themselves and in collaboration with other Governments and key stakeholders, to promote responsible business practices. The discussion highlighted that while many countries in the region have started putting in place policies and mechanisms to promote responsible business practices, more can be done. Key conference findings suggest that Asia-Pacific governments should take a stronger lead in guiding and promoting responsible business practices and that this can be done by promoting a business climate that rewards good behaviour.

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP said stakeholders must be involved in the process and to do this a regional road map for collaboration in promoting responsible business practices should be developed: “Responsible business can be a generator of innovation, a driver of new technologies, a primary source of jobs, and the life-blood of economic growth and human development,” Dr. Heyzer told the conference.

The last session of the event focused on how regional cooperation can help push for more responsible business practices. One speaker noted that Governments need to provide clarity and NGOs and businesses need to talk together in order to promote responsible business practices in the region.

OECD Deputy Secretary-General, and former Deputy Minister of Finance of Japan, Mr. Rintaro Tamaki also noted that: “Responsible business conduct is an essential component of inclusive growth, an objective we all share. Governments have a critical role to play. Developed by the OECD, the government-to-government approach with focal points on RBC could be replicated on a regional level in Asia-Pacific. There is a wealth of experience on national, regional and international levels that could assist these efforts.”

ESCAP and OECD signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deepen collaboration

A ceremony was held to mark the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ESCAP and OECD. The MoU will facilitate a deepening of collaboration between the two organizations. Among the areas for collaboration under the Memorandum of Understanding are the promotion of corporate responsibility and responsible business practices, emerging trade policy issues, investment policy and promotion, trade facilitation, value chain development and SME policies, aid for trade, public-private partnerships for infrastructure, as well as statistics and low-carbon green growth.

UN Regional Commissions join forces for global trade facilitation and paperless trade

The Global Trade Facilitation Conference 2013 opened today in Bangkok. Organized in collaboration with all regional commissions of the UN system, under the ‘Joint UN Regional Commissions Approach to Trade Facilitation’, the conference discussed latest developments in the implementation of single window and paperless trade systems across the world, and discussed the way forward to ensure that the emergence of paperless supply chains leads to both trade facilitation and inclusive development. The Conference shared knowledge of good practices and international standards, and of instruments and tools for implementing national and cross-border paperless trade systems.

The conference highlighted that moving from paper-based supply chains to paperless supply chains, requires a long-term approach and commitment. It involves looking beyond national borders to develop systems that can facilitate electronic information exchange between public and private parties both within and across countries.

Asia has made more progress than other developing regions of the world, with the world’s top five performers in terms of international supply chain connectivity being all Asian economies.

73 countries around the world have already developed electronic single window and 60% of Asian countries are actively engaged in single window implementation. The next challenge will be to inter-connect or integrate these systems so that the data and documents generated by them can be exchanged and used across borders.

Next generation paperless trade systems will require closer collaboration between public and private sectors as well as between governments, as foreseen in ESCAP Resolution 68/3 on Enabling Paperless trade for inclusive growth.

An OECD study based on ESCAP-World Bank Trade Cost Database suggests that automation and simplification of procedures are key measures in reducing trade costs in developing countries.

To ensure paperless systems lead to more inclusive development, they will need to be designed taking into account the needs of small and medium size enterprises. Enabling cross-border electronic documents and payments is essential in facilitating transit and enabling landlocked countries to more effectively participate and benefit from international trade.

How effective is Aid for Trade? – Experts consider latest research findings on effective monitoring and evaluation

Aid for Trade is one of the most effective ways to assist developing countries to integrate into global and regional trade. Today was the opening day of this two-day event, considering the latest research findings on Aid for Trade. Discussions centered on the monitoring and evaluation systems for Aid for Trade projects at both the national and the project levels and opened with an introduction to ESCAP’s work in Aid for Trade.

The event highlighted the perspectives of donors as well as lessons learned from specific projects. Altangerel Amgalan from GIZ, Mongolia noted that Aid for Trade is sometimes understood as financial support. But knowledge transfer aspect has bigger importance.

Speaking at today’s event, Dr. Pwint San, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Myanmar, said that Aid for Trade is one of the most important resources to carry successful trade promotion, trade facilitation, trade education, and trade liberalization, based on accountability, transparency, and sustainability.

The workshop showcased several projects that have been exemplary in adopting efficient internal and external monitoring and evaluation frameworks to keep track of the development impacts of Aid for Trade projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia-Pacific Countries launched a new network for harmonizing testing standards of agricultural machinery in the region

Policymakers from 14 countries across the Asia-Pacific region pledged their support to a regional network to facilitate trade in safe, efficient and environmentally friendly agricultural machinery.

The Asian and Pacific Network for Testing of Agricultural Machinery (ANTAM) was launched during the Regional Policymakers’ Roundtable, which also discussed the roles and working modalities of ANTAM. ANTAM is an open regional network composed of national testing stations of agricultural machinery of participating countries, research institutes, associations of agricultural machinery manufacturers and farmers organizations with an aim to promote harmonization of testing codes and standards of agricultural machinery across the region.

Due to rapid mechanization of the agricultural sector to meet the increasing demand for more and better food, developing countries are expected to account for more than 50 percent of the global sales of agricultural machinery by 2015. It was noted at the event that the ANTAM launch today was an important step towards providing farmers with safer, more reliable agricultural machinery and instruments.

Speaking at the launch, Ravi Ratnayake, Director, ESCAP Trade and Investment division noted the ongoing importance of agriculture for development in region and called on governments to work with CSAM and ESCAP in making ANTAM a success.

Cooperation is crucial for the region to get the most out of Science Technology and Innovation

South-south cooperation can be a useful tool to facilitate development and transfer of technology within and across the region. Given the socio-economic advancements and emerging science, technology and innovation (STI) approaches of more advanced developing countries such as China, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Thailand, the region provide opportunities to study, nurture and strengthen south-south based STI capacity building for development and transfer of technology.

This meeting discussed ways forward to strengthen development and transfer of technology through South-South Cooperation in STI Capacity Building, thus contributing to regional cooperation and integration. Key recommendations from the meeting included that countries of the Asia Pacific collaborate on open innovation platforms and jointly develop technologies that are relevant to their needs. The delegates recommended that APCTT spearhead the collaboration on open innovation with ESCAP member countries and identified some technologies that can be developed with open innovation. The meeting also identified synergies between the work programs and opportunities for collaboration between APCTT and the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation, established under the auspices of UNESCO. Finally the meeting recommended that APCTT focus on the mainstreaming of women in STI in its programs on STI collaboration.