Seminar on APEC Regional Integration and Connectivity in an Era of Populist Policies

The Singapore APEC Study Centre invited policymakers and experts to share their insights on the recently concluded trade ministers meeting from the 21 APEC member economies in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Thursday, 1 June 2017 – The Singapore APEC Study Centre under the Regional Economic Studies Programme (RES) invited policymakers and experts to share their insights on the recently concluded trade ministers meeting from the 21 APEC member economies in Hanoi, Vietnam. The seminar was attended by 60 people, including diplomats, government officials, business leaders, academics and members of the media.


The presenters and Dr Francis E. Hutchinson, Senior Fellow and Coordinator for the Regional Economic Studies Programme, who chaired the seminar (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms. Chan Kah Mei, Deputy Director at the Trade Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, providing the highlights of the Hanoi meetings, shared that, apart from the U.S., all APEC economies showed willingness for trade liberalisation. The U.S. emphasized ‘free and fair’ trade, though there was no clear definition of ‘fair’ trade. Ms. Chan further shared that as Chair of APEC 2017, Vietnam was expected to deliver a roadmap for the digital economy, an APEC services competitiveness index and a trade facilitation (or supply chain) framework action plan. Some work programs for 2017 were also expected to set the tone of APEC’s post 2020 vision. 

Dr. Denis Hew, Director of APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU), presented the latest publication on APEC Regional Trend Analysis. He highlighted that APEC had maintained its growth momentum in 2015-–2016 at around 3.5 per cent. GDP growth is expected to be higher at 3.8 per cent in 2017–2018, tapering to 3.7 per cent in 2019, in line with world GDP. Dr. Hew further discussed the good and bad of globalization and the role of public policy. While globalization contributed to economic growth, poverty reduction and better living conditions, it fell short of inclusive growth and had negative impact on low- and medium-skill workers. To address the challenges of globalization, it was important to have domestic adjustment policies which complemented the regional initiatives. 


Participants at the seminar (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr. Andrew Elek, Visiting Research Fellow of the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University (ANU), spoke on the importance of connectivity going forward. He mentioned that translating the discussion of regional connectivity into reality was hard work — building connectivity suffered from weak institutional capacity, inadequate skills and inadequate financing. None of the current efforts to boost connectivity in Asia and the Pacific had an adequate long-term strategy. He concluded that all of them needed to find better ways to attract private sector investment to finance infrastructure.