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Bogor deadlines achievable. (APEC/ABAC - The Challenges Ahead).

Strong leadership will be needed if APEC is to meet its self-imposed Bogor free trade deadlines, ABAC Action Plan Monitoring Committee chair Ernest S Micek says.

Micek, chairman retired of Cargill Inc, says the road towards free trade and open investment has become more difficult after the events of 11 September.

"First, I believe all economies that are part of APEC have good intentions of meeting the Bogor goals. However, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the recent economic slowdown that has been exacerbated by the 9/11 tragedy have slowed the process and will challenge members to meet the timetables established in 1994," he said. "I believe a good overall tone has been established, the right things are being said, but the difficulty is in the implementation. To meet the free trade and investment openness that was envisioned will cause change, and change as we know creates anxiety because industries and jobs will be affected which ultimately impacts politics and policy. So there will be challenges in the years ahead that will require unswerving leadership to meet the timetables set in the Bogor goals."

Good progress

Micek's task force is responsible for monitoring the progress of APEC member economies towards meeting the Bogor deadlines, He says there have been some good steps taken forward, particularly in the areas of e-commerce and customs.

"There has been keen interest by developed and developing economies in e-commerce. The inequity that a digital divide can create in the region has been much discussed and some important steps have been taken to include developing countries in sharing in these new technologies," he said.

"A good example that we now have is the IAPs (Individual Action Plans) that are on the internet so anyone can check an economy to survey the progress. Additionally APEC has created a coordinated strategy for trying to close the digital divide called e-APEC. This is an important commitment by members to make progress by using the new technologies.

"Another area where important progress is being achieved is in the customs area. The best example of progress is the Shanghai Model Port Project that was highlighted last October at the APEC leaders conferences in Shanghai. Here was a project involving two economies, the US and China, and the private sector working together to fashion a 21st century customs facility to handle 21st century issues.

"There are other examples related to imports and exports. The auto dialogue and chemical dialogue have focused on mutual recognition standards. The chemical dialogue has taken as its most important early project the issues of standardizing hazardous chemical warning symbols. The objective is to make universal symbols that can be understood globally."

Food lags

It's not all good news though, with Micek saying the agriculture and food industry sectors still posing a substantial problem.

"Both developing and developed economies are very protective of their agricultural sector, but for different reasons. In my opinion, for the region to truly achieve its economic potential, the region must look at itself differently," he said.

"It should explore the possibilities that regional comparative advantage and regional interdependency can provide. ABAC has developed the APEC Food System which, if implemented, would raise living standards throughout the region. We believe this is a 21st century solution to providing abundant and nutritious food at economical value to everyone."

Not too tight

Despite the apparent lack of progress on some fronts, Micek says the Bogor deadlines (2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing) are still achievable.

"The march toward trade and investment liberalisation is a long journey. The Bogor deadlines are but a marker along the way but they represent accomplishment. In this age of globalisation, people from all nations want to share in the opportunity that free and fair trade offer. But they won't wait indefinitely! Perhaps if the one billion or so people who go to bed at night hungry could see how they might share in global wealth creation they might be less likely to follow radical movements that offer false hope."

Keep pushing

Micek has urged other APEC members, particularly those on ABAC, to push their governments hard to meet free trade objectives.

"It's important that we can show accomplishment this year. For the longer term, we need more Shanghai Port type projects. Getting governments and the private sector working together is of paramount importance and is the only way the Bogor goals will be met."

RELATED ARTICLE: Action plan monitoring goals.

In its 2001 recommendation to APEC leaders, the Action Plan Monitoring Committee called for more details and improvements to the Individual Action Plans (IAPs).

Their recommendations stated that: "ABAC places great importance on the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the information contained in the Individual Action Plans since they constitute critical roadmaps for APEC economies in arriving at the Bogor Goals of free trade and investment by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies. ABAC reiterates its call for continuous improvement in the quality and specificity of the information contained within the IAPs. ABAC also encourages APEC to take steps to improve the accessibility of the IAPs through the e-IAP website."

Specifically, the Action Plan Monitoring Committee called for APEC to:

* Improve the e-IAP website;

* Develop two new reporting areas within the IAPs for eCommerce readiness and the APEC Food System;

* Strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights; and

* Remove impediments to foreign direct investment.
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Comment:Bogor deadlines achievable. (APEC/ABAC - The Challenges Ahead).(Brief Article)
Publication:Business Asia
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:899
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