Asia-Pacific countries to finalise agenda for regional economic integration

Heads of government, ministers and senior policymakers from 34 Asia-Pacific countries will meet here this week to finalise a declaration on regional integration aimed at promoting inclusive and sustainable growth and reducing shared vulnerabilities and risks of natural and economic disasters.

The Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific is being organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) from 17 to 20 December at the request of Asia-Pacific countries made during the 68 th ESCAP Commission Session last year.

The Conference is taking place on the 50 th anniversary of the First Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, which was also convened by ESCAP and led to the establishment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Although it is the world’s fastest growing region, economic dynamism in Asia and the Pacific is challenged not only by persisting global economic uncertainty but also by wide development gaps and structural impediments within the region. An estimated 743 million people in the region subsist on less than $1.25 a day and more than twice that number live on less than $2 a day.

ESCAP member countries at last year’s Commission Session – the annual parliament of Asia-Pacific countries – had emphasized the critical role of regional economic integration in promoting inclusive and sustainable development.

“In a dramatically altered post-global financial crisis scenario, the region’s dynamism, which is crucial for the elimination of poverty and hunger and for the realization of an Asia-Pacific century, will critically depend on its ability to harness the potential of regional economic integration,” says an ESCAP background document for the Ministerial Conference.

The Conference is expected to endorse an agenda for action aiming to bring Asia-Pacific countries closer together, moving towards an integrated market, seamless hard and soft connectivity and mutual cooperation to address shared vulnerabilities and risks.

Two preparatory consultation meetings ahead of the Conference led to the formulation of a preliminary draft for a Bangkok Declaration on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific which will be reviewed by the Ministerial Conference for likely adoption.