By Simon Newnham, Australian Ambassador for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
This year has been particularly special. Australia and our good friend and closest neighbour Papua New Guinea, share close historical and economic ties, as well as strong personal links. Australia was pleased to have supported Papua New Guinea’s hosting of APEC this year through leading international security support, and providing policy guidance to Papua New Guinea. Importantly, we believe our assistance will have an enduring benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea beyond its APEC year.
In my policy discussions with Papua New Guinean officials in Port Moresby, it has been wonderful to see their deep understanding of APEC’s values reflected in their proactive focus on balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth.
The Annual APEC Leaders Week has now drawn to a close Papua New Guinea’s host year. A Leaders Declaration, which would have articulated an economic vision for the region, was unfortunately not able to be agreed and released at the conclusion of the meeting this year due to differences of view within APEC over global trade. However, a declaration was subsequently released, and reflects the consensus of all APEC economies on the overwhelming majority of trade and economic policy issues. The outcome on the declaration should not overshadow the significant economic contribution that APEC has made and continues to make in advancing regional growth and development.
I would like to highlight just how valuable APEC has been for our region. It has advanced trade and investment liberalisation and played a significant role in the transformation of the Asia Pacific into the most dynamic economic region in the world.
Since 1992, APEC’s total trade in goods and services increased more than 5.3 times to $21,759 trillion in 2017, with even more today.
The Asia Pacific region’s real GDP has more than doubled to over US$43 trillion since the creation of APEC in 1989.
In 2017, the region enjoyed a 4.1% economic growth rate – compared to 3.4% in the rest of the world.
And average tariffs in APEC economies have come down from around 17% in 1989 to under 6% today.
APEC’s member economies are home to more than 2.9 billion people and make up over half of global GDP. Twelve of our top fifteen trading partners are APEC economies. APEC economies also make up more than 70 per cent of Australia’s total trade in goods and services. Closer regional economic integration contributes to Australian economic growth and prosperity.
It has been a privilege to have seen in person the benefits the forum offers.
It brings countries together to discuss global trade, facilitating dialogue at a time when some are questioning its merits.
It is a platform for countries to share technical expertise – making governments more efficient and effective.
And most importantly, it provides an opportunity to help shape new rules and standards, and seek to foster free and open trade and investment in the region.
These rules have contributed to massive growth in our region, a reduction in global inequality and unprecedented prosperity for many citizens in both the developed and developing world. APEC is a vital platform to continue to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth within the region. Australia has been a major player in this process from the formation of APEC in 1989, to hosting APEC in 2007 and supporting Papua New Guinea in 2018. Australia will continue to use APEC to advocate for a global rules-based multilateral trading system, and to advance global rules on digital trade. We are confident that APEC can play a key role in establishing norms on how governments cooperate on technology, facilitating benefits and mitigating risks.
The future of our region is tied to the future of APEC. With APEC’s continued efforts on sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth, and a focus on free and open trade, we hope to see everyone in our region reap the rewards.
Congratulations to Papua New Guinea on an incredible and vibrant APEC through 2018. We look forward to working with Chile during its 2019 APEC host year.