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Successful APEC meetings cap Cebu 2015 milestones

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For the island of Cebu, last year’s banner event was without a doubt the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 highlighted by the Third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 3) and related sessions as well as several ministerial conferences.

The APEC 2015 Cebu meetings were held from August to September in various venues in Cebu City and Mactan and tackled issues related to trade and investment, services, counter-terrorism, mining, illegal logging, intellectual property, corruption, electronic commerce, health and life sciences, and market access.

Highlighted during the SOM 3 and Related Meetings was the role of quality infrastructure in economic growth. APEC stresses its importance in physically connecting the region as well as ensuring the efficient movement of goods, services, and people between and within borders.

Here’s a rundown of the commitments forged and agreements reached in Cebu before the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Manila:

– Launch of the Cebu Action Plan by APEC Finance Ministers

APEC Finance Ministers launched the Cebu Action Plan during their 22nd meeting in Cebu from September 10-11. It is intended as a roadmap towards achieving a more sustainable financial future for the Asia-Pacific region.

The Cebu Action Plan (CAP) was launched as among the first steps to a more prosperous as well as financially integrated and resilient region and considered one of the lasting legacies of the Philippine hosting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

In particular, CAP continues the progress towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment with economies committed to working towards more liberalized financial services and capital accounts across Asia-Pacific.

Cebu Action Plan marker unveiled

In relation to this, APEC Finance Ministers unveiled a marker to commemorate the Cebu Action Plan. The marker is a 4-meter tall sculpture of pounded brass on four black granite pedestals representing the CAP pillars. The work of Toym Imao, the sculpture celebrates the region’s shared commitment towards a more sustainable financial future.

– Improve ‘Ease of Doing Business’ target by 10 percent

Structural Reform ministers agreed during their Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting (SRMM) last September 7-8 in Cebu City to adopt a 10 percent improvement target for ‘Ease of Doing Business (EODB)’ across Asia-Pacific over the next three years.

The SRMM in Cebu City is the second one conducted in APEC, with the first held in Australia in 2008.

Saying they recognize the contribution of EoDB to remove impediments to commerce and trade, APEC ministers and senior officials adopted several measures aimed at promoting economic growth through structural reform.

– Creation of an Asia-Pacific Services Coalition

Services groups in Asia Pacific met during the APEC Business Advisory Council-sponsored Meeting of Services Coalitions, Services Industries and Organizations last September 7 and agreed to form an Asia-Pacific Services Coalition. The creation of the coalition is an important step towards fostering growth and efficiency in the services sector. The meeting was held at the sidelines of the SRMM in Cebu City.

– Achieve a 45 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2035

The APEC Expert Group in Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EGEEC) held its 46th meeting in Cebu City from August 31 to September 2 and reaffirmed its commitment to intensify efforts to reduce the aggregate energy intensity by 45 percent based on the 2005 level by 2035.

Energy intensity is a comparative measure to determine the energy efficiency of each economy calculated as units of energy per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). Highly productive economies that use high energy efficiency and adopt energy efficient technologies would likely have low energy intensities.

– Bring about free trade in Asia Pacific

The APEC Committee on Trade and Investment met for the third time in the Philippines, specifically in Cebu City from August 31-September 1, to discuss updates on the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement protocol, Bogor Goals, and the steps towards bringing about the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

Other issues it tackled: global value chain cooperation and globalization of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); environmental goods and services and green growth; investment; economic and technical cooperation; infrastructure investment initiatives; supply chain connectivity; global data standards, customs and business mobility issues; standards and conformance and cross-cutting issues which include human capital development; travel facilitation; and economic reform, among others.

– Improve access of Auto SMEs to Asia-Pacific markets

Member economies identified the barriers that hinder enterprises from successfully going global at the closing of the 23rd APEC Auto Dialog in Cebu last August 29. The AD recommended strategies to develop the automotive sector in the Asia Pacific region. Much of the trade in APEC is focused on auto components and parts, including high tech electronics, metal work, plastic manufacturing, and logistics services.

Dialog participants agree that the key strategies to growing the industry involve information, along with financing, new technology, and value chain connections.

Serving as prelude to the issuance in Manila of the 23rd Economic Leaders’ Meeting Declaration by the heads of the 21 APEC member economies, the Cebu meetings discussed a host of issues geared towards policy declarations in line with the APEC 2015 vision of building inclusive economies to create a better world.

The well-hosted sessions here earned praise from delegates and served as a feather in Cebu’s cap in 2015. In terms of achievement, nothing can compare to the successful results of the APEC Cebu meetings.

Here’s the continuation of the rundown of the commitments forged and agreements reached during the Third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 3) and related sessions as well as ministerial conferences in Cebu:

– Adoption of Cebu Declaration by APEC energy ministers

Energy Ministers from the 21 APEC member economies wrapped up their meeting last October 15 by adopting the Cebu Declaration on the region’s energy priorities.

The region’s energy stakeholders were instructed to promote and collaborate on initiatives geared towards creating an energy efficient and resilient region. One of the measures recommended by the ministers is the creation of a task force to implement the following: disaster-proofing of energy infrastructure, advancing cutting-edge efficiency technologies, promoting community-based clean energy use, improving energy trade and investment in APEC.

– Grow participation of services trade in global value chains

The APEC Group on Services and Market Access Group met in Cebu City last August 26 to discuss the critical role of services trade in global value chains (GVCs), which now account for more than 50 percent of global trade. The group agreed there is an urgent need to make the services sector more competitive.

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies, in a paper for the APEC 2015 Research Project, defined value chain as “the full range of activities that firms and workers perform to bring a product from its conception to end use and beyond.”

– Conduct a review of the counter-terrorism plan

APEC Senior Officials agreed during the conclusion of the 6th APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) meetings from September 1-2 in Cebu City to conduct an assessment of the CTWG Strategic Plan which is halfway through its implementation. The group believed it was high time to assess its work based on the specified goals and used this assessment to make counter-terrorism measures more responsive to the current security threats faced by the region. The problem on foreign terrorist fighters figured in the discussion.

– Check up on APEC connectivity implementation

APEC Senior Officials discussed the progress of the first-year implementation of the APEC Connectivity Blueprint for 2015-2025 during the “Friends of the Chair on Connectivity” Meeting last September 3 in Cebu City.

Launched by APEC Leaders in 2014, the blueprint was intended to serve as a guide to achieving the vision for a “seamlessly and comprehensively connected and integrated Asia-Pacific balanced on three pillars – physical connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity.”

It included initiatives that make it easier to do business across and within borders and calls for economies to make it easier for students, business persons, and tourists to travel around the region.

– Facilitate travel involving the business community

The APEC Business Mobility Group adopted during its meetings in Cebu from August 22-24 measures related to the facilitation of travel especially geared towards the business community, including recommendations on how best to move the administration of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) forward.

The group is moving to extend the validity of the ABTC from its current three-year validity to five years.

– Strengthen intellectual property (IP) assets of MSMEs

In its Cebu meeting last August 22-23, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Intellectual Property Experts’ Group (APEC-IPEG) solidified policy efforts to help MSMEs expand their market reach through strengthened exploitation of their IP assets. The Philippines pushed for two proposals for MSMEs: one on brand development and another on IP valuation, financing, and commercialization.

– Signing of IP cooperation deal between Philippines, Mexico

The Philippines and Mexico signed an expanded IP cooperation deal to foster the growing trade and innovation transfer between the two countries. The agreement calls for the IP offices of the two countries to collaborate to ensure proper administration, protection, use and enforcement of IP rights.

The meeting happened on the sidelines of the APEC-IPEG meeting in Cebu City.