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Asia-Pacific Leaders Pledge Actions to Expand Trade and Strengthen Economic Integration

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Following their annual meeting Nov. 12-13, the leaders of the 21 member countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum issued a declaration pledging to take a number of concrete steps to further expand trade and strengthen economic integration. While the leaders directed their trade ministers to continue to work to find a way forward for the foundering Doha Round negotiations, their primary focus was on ways to further open each other’s markets and create a “seamless regional economy.” According to the leaders’ declaration and related materials from APEC and the Obama administration, the commitments made include the following.

• establish commercially useful de minimis values that will exempt low-value shipments from customs duties and streamline entry documentation requirements as a key contribution to the goal of an APEC-wide 10% improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015

• undertake nine specific actions to address the top barriers that small and medium-sized enterprises face in trading in the region

• play a leadership role in launching negotiations to expand the product coverage and membership of the World Trade Organization Information Technology Agreement (a topic the U.S. is already considering)

• implement the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules System, which the Federal Trade Commission calls “a self-regulatory code of conduct,” to reduce barriers to information flows, enhance consumer privacy and promote interoperability across regional data privacy regimes

• extend an APEC-wide standstill on export restrictions and other WTO-inconsistent trade measures on agricultural products

• pursue liberalization of air cargo services

• work to develop in 2012 a list of environmental goods that directly and positively contribute to green growth and sustainable development objectives on which APEC members are resolved to reduce applied tariff rates to 5% or less by the end of 2015

• eliminate non-tariff barriers, including local content requirements, that distort environmental goods and services trade

(prior to the leaders’ meeting, ministers from APEC countries agreed to several additional measures to promote “green” growth, including (a) developing by the end of 2012 common elements of policies and regulations for the expedited duty-free importation of a small number of alternative-fueled demonstration vehicles and (b) facilitating trade in remanufactured goods)

• promote energy efficiency by taking specific steps related to transport, buildings, power grids, jobs, knowledge sharing and education in support of energy-smart low-carbon communities

• work to implement appropriate measures to prohibit trade in illegally harvested forest products and undertake additional activities in APEC to combat illegal logging and associated trade

• pursue common objectives to prevent technical barriers to trade related to emerging green technologies, including smart grid interoperability standards, green buildings and solar technologies

• take specific steps by 2013 to implement good regulatory practices, including by ensuring internal coordination of regulatory work, assessing regulatory impacts and conducting public consultation

• strengthen food safety systems and facilitate trade, including by supporting the Global Food Safety Fund

• ensure implementation of APEC anti-corruption and open government commitments by 2014

(APEC ministers noted progress on additional topics, including a plan to achieve convergence on regulatory approval procedures for medical products by 2020, a guidance document on the application of the Globally Harmonized System principles to the classification and labeling of consumer products, and a new database cataloguing regulatory requirements in a range of services sectors across select APEC economies.)

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