Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies will take concrete measures to fight protectionism, provide fresh momentum to the Doha Round talks and enhance regional economic integration, trade ministers from the region agreed here on Wednesday.
Trade ministers from 21 APEC economies have gathered here for the two-day Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting to discuss policy responses to the economic crisis as well as to prepare for recovery in the longer-term.
During the meeting, which kicked off on Tuesday, the trade ministers said that sustaining trade and investment flows remains critical to the future prosperity of the region.
According to WTO's annual world trade report launched on the sidelines of the meeting, the world merchandise trade volume is expected to decline by 10 percent in 2009.
The trade ministers noted that while pressures for protectionism were greater during these difficult times, the political resolve to resist them must be even stronger.
China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming stressed that China will continue its mutually-beneficial opening policy and actively support the agreement reached by G20 summit leaders to fight against protectionism. He called on APEC economies to make continuous efforts to enhance free trade and trade facilitation.
In order to restore trade and spur economic recovery, APEC trade ministers said that they will take concrete measures to combat protectionism.
They agreed to extend till end of 2010 the commitment made in Lima last year by APEC leaders to refrain from raising new barriers to trade and investment in the region, adding that they stand ready to extend the commitment further if necessary.
They shared the view that the main threats to a revival of trade flows include rising protectionist pressures, and continued delay in concluding the Doha Round.
"Concluding the Doha Round by 2010 will be the most effective way to resist protectionism and strengthen the multilateral trading system," they said in a statement after the meeting.
They will accelerate efforts to conclude modalities in Agriculture and NAMA, and utilize all possible avenues of engagement to encourage greater transparency and understanding of what is on the table to fill the remaining gaps in the negotiations as soon as possible.
They also discussed ways to strengthen the region's competitiveness by accelerating integration efforts, which will position the Asia-Pacific for a strong and sustained recovery.
In achieving this, the minister agreed to accelerate trade at the border with simpler customs documentation procedures, to reduce regulatory impediments behind the border, and to improve connectivity across the border by identifying the checkpoints in trade logistics and reviewing logistics policies.
The ministers also touched on the issues of climate change, anti-terrorism, food security and dealing with global pandemic, pledging to ensure that the APEC economies' growth strategies are sustainable.
The Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting is the first APEC Ministerial Meeting of APEC 2009. Singapore is playing host to the APEC meetings held from February to November 2009. They will culminate in the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, where leaders of APEC's 21 member economies will meet in Singapore from Nov. 14 to 15 this year.