Ahead of the forthcoming 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, today ESCAP convened a high-level dialogue entitled ‘Reviving Multilateralism: Road to Bali and beyond.’ The main discussion point of the event was the need for a deal at Bali to cement the credibility of the WTO. High-level speakers from Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand engaged in lively discussion on how to best resolve the current deadlock and address issues critical to developing countries.
Panelists stressed the importance to reach a deal at Bali which reaffirms the importance of the rule-based multilateral trading system. Minister Nam Viyaketh, Minister of Industry of Commerce, Lao PDR said “the WTO is the main multilateral forum for settling international trade disputes, limiting the introduction of protectionist measures during the global economic crisis, and serves as a forum for negotiations. The multilateral trading system is being challenged by the rise of preferential trade agreements and the role of the WTO is being reduced. Bali must address the issues relating to trade facilitation, food security and LDC packages.”
The panelists underscored the importance of a positive outcome and were hopeful that a declaration in Bali could be reached. The panelists also emphasized that any agreement should address the specific challenges faced by least developed countries.
The Global Trade Facilitation Conference 2013 continued in its second day to review the latest developments in moving beyond Single Window and discuss a way forward to ensure that the emergence of paperless supply chains leads to both trade facilitation and more inclusive development. In particular, participants discussed paperless solutions for facilitation of supply chain finance and the legal framework needed to support cross-border paperless trade systems.
The conference reiterated that access to trade finance remains a major trade barrier for firms in developing countries, particularly SMEs. Inadequate systems for making payments during the trade transaction process also hinder trade and efficiency of trade transactions. The conference also highlighted the importance of developing an appropriate legal framework to support paperless trade systems. However, it is one of the most challenging goals in the process of developing paperless trade systems. During the sessions, speakers provided examples of how paperless systems can facilitate faster payment settlements in international trade.
Finally, the UN regional commissions in their recommendations emphasized that governments should encourage collaboration of Inter Organization Information System (IOS) and Single Window systems with the objective to create an open Single Window environment that delivers integrated and high value added services to trade. In addition, the need to continue building capacities of developing countries, especially least or landlocked developing countries for establishing such systems were highlighted.
Members of the Asia-Pacific Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Network for Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries met for the third time on Tuesday to share experiences and best practices on promoting FDI for inclusive and sustainable development. This year’s discussions centered on the theme of inclusivity, with a particular focus on the natural resources sector. Participants gave presentations about FDI in the natural resources sector in their respective countries and discussed the specific challenges of promoting inclusive FDI in the sector. The participants agreed that diversifying the economy is important, especially for resource rich countries.
Participants shared examples from their countries and discussed the pros and cons of providing investment incentives, with views ranging from incentives only being ‘icing on the cake’ to incentives being important to attract investments in certain sectors.
POutcomes of OECD Investment Policy Reviews and lessons for the Asia-Pacific region were presented. It was highlighted that the policy reviews provide an opportunity for evaluation of policies, while facilitating transparency in policymaking and providing a useful basis for prioritization and sequencing of reform measures.
On its second day, the Regional Expert Dialogue on Aid for Trade focused on the challenges as well as future directions for Aid for Trade. The workshop was well received and proved to be an effective way to disseminate recent research findings and empirical evidence to those involved in Aid for Trade. Acknowledging ESCAP’s role in Aid for Trade, Mr. Enkhbold Voroshilov from the Mongolia Development and Strategy Institute said that "In terms of trade facilitation and regional Aid for Trade, UN ESCAP's role is very important." The workshop ended with a presentation on the lessons learned from the 4th Global Aid for Trade Review and ways forward for Aid for Trade in the Asia Pacific region.
The Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) is the oldest preferential trade agreement among developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. On Tuesday, an Expert Group Meeting on APTA met to discuss current trends in regional integration and assess the potential of APTA to work as a regional mechanism to promote economic integration. The EGM also reviewed two major studies on the role of APTA in facilitating the integration of Central Asian and the Pacific sub-regions of ESCAP with the rest of the region.
The meeting further underlined the importance of trade agreements in promoting economic development by lowering barriers and encouraging expansion intra-regional trade. During the EGM on Regional Integration and the role of APTA, participants discussed assessing the benefits for the APTA Participating States and potential member countries as well as the possible strategies of membership expansion to the Central Asian Republics and the Pacific Island Countries under the APTA as a mechanism for regional integration in Asia and the Pacific. They also discussed the suitability of APTA for Pan-Asian Economic Integration as the Agreement is broad-based, comprehensive and involving dynamic economies, which has big potential yet to be realized.
The Governing Council of the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM) also met on Tuesday to discuss and provide direction for the Centre's programme of work. The Governing Council commended on the positive outcomes of CSAM’s programme delivery in 2013 and endorsed the five strategic functions identified as a result the strategic review process. The Governing Council recommended that member states of ESCAP give greater attention and support to the Asian and Pacific Network for Testing of Agricultural Machinery (ANTAM), which was officially launched on Monday. The main goal of ANTAM will be to ensure the sustainability, safety and high quality of agricultural machinery produced, traded and used in the Asia-Pacific. As one of the flagship projects of CSAM, ANTAM will also work to harmonize national testing codes and standards of agricultural machinery, and ensure that uniform and mutually recognized testing procedures are applied. Welcoming the work of CSAM one participant said: "This is our centre. It should be a lead organization in agricultural mechanization in the region and beyond."
The ninth session of the Governing Council of Asia Pacific Centre for Technology Transfer took place on Tuesday. The Governing Council reviewed the administrative and financial status of the Centre and the implementation of its work programme. The Governing Council members, representing a diverse number of countries from across the Asia Pacific reaffirmed the importance of the Centre’s mission to increase the technology transfer capacity of member states and agreed on the direction of the Centre’s work program for the coming year.