Asia-Pacific countries seek ESCAP support to remove bottlenecks to intraregional trade and investment

Senior government representatives of over 30 Asia-Pacific countries ended three days of United Nations-sponsored discussions here today, seeking the world body’s support to remove bottlenecks to intraregional trade and investment, giving special attention to least developed and landlocked developing countries.

The Committee on Trade and Investment, a regional policymakers’ forum convened biannually by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) also highlighted the need for UN assistance to developing Asia-Pacific countries to realize the huge potential for trade and investment in low-carbon goods, technologies and services.

The deliberations focused on ways Asia-Pacific developing countries can take advantage of emerging opportunities to maintain its dynamic trade and investment growth that has played a key role in the global economic recovery over the past year.

Measures recommended by the forum for ESCAP action range from simplification of trade procedures through Single Window and Paperless trade, compliance with agricultural product standards and ensuring small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a greater share in international trade to capacity building and promoting the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA).

The discussions were informed by findings in the ESCAP Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2011 released earlier this week which highlighted the need for the region to reduce export reliance on developed world markets and to ensure that all countries in the region have an adequate share in its fast growing trade and investment.

The Committee emphasized the importance of trade facilitation to reduce the cost of transit, documentation, customs clearance and other non-tariff barriers, including cumbersome standards and certification requirements. To facilitate cross-border trade, the Committee called for a regional agreement on electronic trade data and document exchange for Asia and the Pacific.

Asia-Pacific countries agreed that trade and investment in low-carbon goods, services and technologies can help mitigate and adapt to climate change, but noted constraints faced by developing countries in this regard. Governments have an important role in providing policy support, in particular, a high quality regulatory framework to attract climate-friendly investment.

The Committee noted that the proliferation of Asia-Pacific regional trade agreements (RTAs) should aim for complementarities with the multilateral trading system and that there was an urgent need for consolidation among the RTAs.

Noting that APTA was the largest RTA in the region by population and had members from across the region, the Committee agreed that the APTA could be a driving force of regional integration with membership expansion and deepening of the agreement.

The Trade and Investment Committee session was one of the main events during the 25 to 29 July Trade and Investment Week organized by ESCAP’s Trade and Investment Division.