Dodwell's blog 7 on SOM3 in Cebu

September 07, 2015

Mon Sep 7 2015
A glimpse of ABAC’s priorities and work program
Doris Ho, ABAC’s 2015 Chair from the Philippines, presented at length to Senior Officials on Saturday about ABAC’s priorities and work programme. I will summarise this shortly in a more comprehensive blog, but this “word cloud”: which she included in the presentation is always fascinating. The bigger the font size of the words, the more often ABAC’s has talked about the phrase over the past decade. Clearly “Aligning Standards” across the region stands out… and will no doubt be reiterated during today’s meeting of Structural Reform Ministers. It is also clear that the APEC Business Travel Card has captured lots of our attention, along with simplifying customs procedures through a “Single Window”, and liberalization through the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Doris Ho at SOM
After more than two weeks of intensive meetings – the biggest ever cluster of APEC Working Group meetings – APEC Senior Officials at last met on Saturday to summarise progress and agree on deliverables to be taken to Leaders when they converge on Manila in November.
Giving powerful substance to the repeated APEC call on regional business leaders, coordinated by ABAC, to collaborate and provide business sector insight and input, Doris Ho, the Philippine ABAC Chair this year, was given pride of place on Saturday morning to report to officials on ABAC’s contribution to APEC in 2015.
Doris’ message was a powerful one: ABAC is committed to working closely with officials to drive growth based on free trade – “unlocking the remarkable human potential of the region and improving the quality of life for the people of all 21 economies… With free trade comes the opportunity for significantly greater regional economic integration, creating jobs, wealth and greater overall prosperity.”
Under the 2015 theme of “Resilient, Inclusive Growth: A fair deal for all”, Doris reviewed a menu of initiatives based on services and innovation that aimed at unleashing the potential of SMEs (in politically correct terms, we now call them MSMEs – Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises). In particular activity has been focused on improving SME access to finance, and on using E-Commerce platforms to empower small companies’ access to markets – and to opportunities to get involved in global supply chains.
ABAC has placed increasing emphasis on the ubiquity of efficiently delivered services in underpinning competitiveness in all corners of our economies, and this work has born rich fruit over the past two years. Economies that in the past have fiercely protected local services providers against international competition are at last beginning to acknowledge that such policies hobble all parts of their economy, compromising the competitiveness of manufacturers and service providers alike, and forcing consumers to pay over the odds for the goods and services they consume.
On innovation, she outlined the ambitious ABAC Innovation Network that aims to map innovation incubators and accelerators across the region, with China, the Philippines, Canada and Hong Kong providing the initial pilot project.
She also outlined an ambitious integration agenda built on APEC’s recently-agreed Connectivity Framework, with initiatives focused on improving physical connectivity, the movement of workers around the region, and on improving the consistency and transparency of our legal systems to build confidence in the rule of law and our legal institutions across the region. She called for a High Level Dialogue next year with Justice Ministers, perhaps in cooperation with the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
In all, it was a blockbuster performance to an attentive audience. Once upon a time, ABAC fulfilled its mission to provide counsel to leaders by meeting once a year and delivering a heavy tome, the ABAC Report to Leaders. Today, as Saturday’s presentation shows, ABAC members are rolling up their sleeves and providing practical counsel at the workface in APEC working groups too. The result? ABAC ideas and initiatives are more closely aligned to those of APEC officials, and we are having more practical influence on policy-making. This has to be good.

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