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SBF supports APEC’s call for greater collaboration between governments and businesses to boost trade and foster inclusive, sustainable growth

Leaders of APEC’s 21 member economies concluded their annual meeting in Manila, the Philippines, on 19 November 2015 and issued the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting Declaration themed “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World: A Vision for an Asia-Pacific Community”.

The Declaration outlines new commitment for APEC members in the coming year to build inclusive economies, foster micro, small and medium enterprises’ participation in regional and global markets, build sustainable and resilient communities, invest in human capital development, and enhance the regional economic integration agenda.

At the meeting, a key highlight was the exclusive dialogue between the APEC leaders and the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) where key issues and challenges faced by businesses were discussed.

Formed in 1995, ABAC provides advice on implementing the APEC agenda and on specific business opportunities. Its members represent a range of business sectors, including small and medium enterprises.

ABAC Singapore is currently represented by Mr S.S. Teo, Managing Director of Pacific International Lines, Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), and Mr Philip Lee, Vice Chairman, South East Asia and Chief Country Officer, Singapore Deutsche Bank – Asia Pacific. Mr Teo shared that, “On advancing regional economic integration, the business community supported APEC leaders’ desire to take meaningful steps towards reaching the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) by providing business perspectives to the APEC Collective Strategic Study which the governments are working on.”

Mr Teo added, “In Manila, ABAC members of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) economies are also delighted with the recent conclusion of the TPP negotiations, which we believe will form one of the pathways in achieving FTAPP.”

Also on the agenda was the development of the services sector. It was identified by the private sector as a key growth area, given its increasingly important and fast-expanding role in the region. ABAC welcomed the APEC leaders’ endorsement of the APEC Services Cooperation Framework to achieve inclusive, high-quality growth. ABAC also looks forward to working with officials in developing a strategic and long-term Services Competitiveness Roadmap in 2016, with a set of concerted actions and mutually agreed targets to be achieved by 2025.

Mr Ho, who led the discussion on ABAC’s service agenda, commented, “With rising affluence in our region, there is growing demand for services in APEC economies. The reduction of services barriers under the framework will provide a boost to services industries. As a global trading and logistics hub, Singapore will benefit from the further liberalisation of the services trade in the region.”

APEC economies are also developing a strategic blueprint to promote a Global Value Chain (GVC) cooperation and development. ABAC strongly recommended tapping on the private sector’s knowledge and expertise, especially on integrating SMEs into GVCs in key areas such as infrastructure, supply chain connectivity, innovation and adopting international standards.

Given the sluggish global economy, forums such as ABAC are now more relevant than ever, given its role as the official private sector feedback channel to APEC governments and a lobbying mechanism for business-related topics such as trade facilitation and liberalisation, strengthening financial systems, capacity building and creating a safe and conducive business environment.

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