Hong Kong Priority – Services Liberalisation
Hong Kong and the Philippines to “Champion”
Services have been a high priority on APEC agenda. At the APEC Leaders’ Week in Honolulu in November 2011, ABAC submitted a comprehensive services trade study to APEC entitled “Services at the Heart of a Competitive Economy (Click to download the report in pdf (3MB)”.
The report is the collaborative effort of ABAC members from Hong Kong and the Philippines who “champion” the ABAC initiative to improve awareness of the critical role of services in the region’s economies. The initiative also highlights how important services are in creating jobs and economic growth in the future.
The ABAC Services Initiative in 2011
This initiative was given a “hot” start by two major conferences on Services in May 2011 – one in Hong Kong at Chinese University, and one in Manila organized by the World Bank.
The initiative outline was framed in time for discussion at ABAC3 in Lima in August. ABAC HK and ABAC Philippines held further discussions with APEC officials at the SOM3 meetings in San Francisco, and received very positive and encouraging feedback.
A complete report was circulated and endorsed at ABAC4 in Honolulu, and was well received.
A New Services Agenda
The report highlights the fact that the services sector, as a whole, has come to dominate the value-added industry in APEC economies. However, there exist some basic barriers that prevent trade in services and services reform such as market access, national treatment measures, and most favoured nation barriers.
The ABAC paper proposes that APEC take three initial steps towards liberalizing services trade, which are as follows:
That APEC launches a new and dedicated initiative specifically aimed at liberalizing and facilitating regional services trade and investment such as a “Services Only” round to supersede the Doha Round.
That APEC creates a tripartite “Services Liberalisation Expert Group” which will look at ways to improve the global governance of services trade and investment.
That ABAC points out the need to improve the region’s official statistics in services to reflect its real contribution to the region.
HK-APEC Trade Policy Group Executive Director David Doddwell briefed
the GOS on the Services report and the follow-up initiatives in Singapore
In response to the ABAC proposal, APEC elevated its discussion on services trade in its working committees. For instance, APEC officials followed-up on issues arising from the study in a special joint meeting of APEC’s Group on Services (GOS) and Market Access Group (MAG) in Moscow in February 2012.
The Policy Support Unit of APEC has also embarked on a project identifying chokepoints in services trade. This is expected to be completed by June 2012 and will be plugged into the ongoing ABAC-commissioned study of mapping out skills trade flows and in highlighting the foreign direct investments (FDI) component in the growth of services.
ABAC HK to play a key role
Services is at the heart of the success of Hong Kong’s economy. ABAC HK will continue to play a key role – through ABAC’s unique advisory role in the APEC forum – in encouraging APEC member economies’ to promote services liberalisation.
Read more about services liberation in APEC