At UN forum regional leaders agree to expand preferential tariffs to expand trade in Asia and the Pacific

Ministerial Council of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, Fourth Session, Bangkok, 13 January 2017
Ministerial Council of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, Fourth Session, Bangkok, 13 January 2017

Ministers from countries party to the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) met during the Fourth APTA Ministerial Council today to conclude negotiations that will more than double the number of products under preferential tariff treatment in order to expand trade and boost growth in the region. The Fourth APTA Ministerial Council was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which acts as secretariat for the Agreement.

The Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, signed in 1975, is the longest running preferential trade agreement among developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. APTA aims to promote economic development through the adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade expansion and provides for economic integration through coverage of merchandise goods, services, investment and trade facilitation.

“Trade is key to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Despite a proliferation of regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region, APTA remains the only operational regional trade agreement linking China and India, two of the fastest growing markets of the world with a combined consumer base of over 2.6 billion people,” noted Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, during the Ministerial Council.

The stakes on international trade and investment have been considerably increased by the adoption of the 2030 Agenda as they’ve been identified as key means of implementation. Additionally, trade and investment have been instrumental in Asia and the Pacific in reducing poverty, empowering women, achieving inclusive and sustainable growth and decent employment.

In addition to increasing the number of products under preferential treatment the Ministerial Council also agreed to the fifth round of negotiations to further expand the scope and depth of regional economic cooperation and integration in Asia and the Pacific and reiterated their commitment to continued progress by agreeing to the fifth session of the APTA Ministerial Council to be held in January 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Countries party to APTA include: Bangladesh, China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka. Mongolia has acceded to APTA as a new Participating State, pending its national ratification.