Structural Reform Urged at APEC Workshop

by Kobakila News

SINGAPORE — Experts from APEC economies urged members to identify and implement structural reforms to boost trade and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific region.

APEC Residential Training Workshop on Structural Reform participants will work with fellow policy-makers from 19 APEC economies over three days to identify domestic reform priorities and capacity building needs.

Workshop participants will analyse questions of prioritizing and sequencing reforms, as well as examining structural adjustment, regulation and competition.

In his keynote address, Gary Banks, Chairman of the Australian Productivity Commission, shared with the participants Australia’s experiences, challenges and successes in undertaking structural reforms over recent decades.

Highlighting some of the challenges and obstacles Mr Banks said that implementation of structural reform may face both technical barriers and strong domestic opposition. All economies face similar obstacles to securing beneficial reforms and APEC economies can learn off each other on how to overcome these obstacles.

Explaining the importance of consultation in the reform process, Mr Banks said, “Australia has benefitted by creating institutions to identify reform needs and help build public support.”

Also speaking at the workshop, Dr. Deunden Nikomborirak, Research Director at Thailand’s Development Research Institute Foundation, acknowledged the complexities of implementing reforms, especially competition policies.

“Implementation of competition laws can be problematic,” she said. “And if there are vested interests, how do we ensure that governments will implement the law?”

“It is time for developing economies to rethink their policies and to collect evidence to see who the policies are actually benefiting. They have to start answering these questions.”

Separately, Australian Trade Minister Dr. Craig Emerson has also singled out domestic structural reform as a priority for APEC economies and its significance for achieving sustained growth and advancing regional economic integration.

“Better functioning domestic markets and institutions across the Asia-Pacific region will promote higher productivity and help economies maximize the benefits of open trade and investment regimes,” said Dr. Emerson.

This workshop forms an important component of the APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform (ANSSR), launched at the 2010 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Yokohama, Japan.

The strategy aims to promote balanced and sustainable growth by fostering transparency, competition and better functioning markets in the Asia-Pacific. In addition, this new strategy emphasizes a social dimension that includes enhancing opportunities to women, education and SME development.

The structural reform workshop is the second in a series of capacity building activities that advances APEC’s new structural reform trajectory. The outcomes of the workshop will be used to inform future APEC structural reform activities.

The last APEC New Strategy for Structural Reform (ANSSR) workshop of the year “Approaches to Assessing Progress on Structural Reform” will be held on September 19-20 on the margins of the third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting in San Francisco. It will focus on building developing economies’ capacity to integrate measures to assess progress on the structural reform priorities they have set.

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