APEC 2017 Informal Senior Officials' Meeting (iSOM) - Blog 2

December 12, 2016

APEC 2017 Informal Senior Officials' Meeting
Blog 2

Hanoi, Vietnam
December 8, 2016
Kristine Yang
Starting from 08:30 am, Thursday's Symposium on Priorities for APEC 2017 presented an intensive brainstorm with hundreds of ideas on the opportunities and challenges for the Asia Pacific region and how APEC can better adapt itself in the challenging global environment. I have to confess, as a new participant, it was very tough, both physically and mentally. 
Echoing the consensus shared in the Lima meetings, the Vietnam year's priorities (to promote sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth and to foster far-reaching regional integration and connectivity, enhanced competitiveness and innovation of MSMEs and food security) were discussed in the context of slow regional and global economic and trade growth, deep concern on anti-globalisation and anti-trade sentiment, Europe's refugee crisis, technology challenges for both business and regulators, and climate change.
Overall, participants continually addressed on the importance of structural reform, free trade agreements (FTAAP, TPP, RCEP), the digital revolution, and  the pivotal role of MSMEs. As the survey by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) found, the failure to implement structural reform is one of the greatest risks risks facing APEC, just behind concerns over slow trade growth. The top priorit y for APEC, as PECC pointed out, is always with the Bogor Goals and the FTAAP, structural reform, and to tackle anti-globalisation and anti-trade sentiment. 
But renewed emphasis on human development, food security, and cyber security were also highlighted. In particular investment in people - responsive education, healthcare and nutrition is seen as essential in the digital age, as well as being rewarding, both economically and socially. The PECC study found that this is particularly important for emerging economies, where education and manufacturing are the biggest drivers for growth. Skills development nowadays requires us to rethink our education system as the World Bank put it "workers in the digital age require higher-order cognitive, socio-emotional and technical skills".
According to Dr Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor from the IMF, although the differences between countries in the Asia Pacific region are significant and many problems are country-specific, wider and deeper cooperation is badly needed in terms of trade discussion, economic integration, and public-good problems such as corporate taxation, financial stability and disaster management. Reflecting the increasingly close interconnection between trade and financial challenges, Mr Alan Oxley, Chairman of APEC Study Centre of Australia challenged why the Financial and Treasury officials do not meet at the same time as trade officials at the end of each APEC year. He suggested they should meet in parallel with the final annual session of the trade officials so their findings can inform the content of the Leader's annual communique. 

Symposium on Priorities for APEC 2017

APEC Vietnam 2017

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