The Government of the Republic of Korea has agreed to voluntarily contribute USD 700,000 in additional funding for APEC projects to improve the technical capacity of member economies to liberalize and facilitate trade and investment, and further strengthen regional economic integration.
A Memorandum of Understanding on the contribution was signed on Friday in Boracay by officials from Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the APEC Secretariat in Singapore, which administers projects that put the policy directives of their Leaders and Ministers into action. It will help to fund projects during the balance of 2015, including those mandated by APEC Trade Ministers to meet here this weekend to boost progressive trade, growth and development.
“The Republic of Korea is committed to building greater capacity in APEC for trade and regional economic integration, and in ways that benefit all corners of society and economies,” said Taeho Lee, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and APEC Senior Official for the Republic of Korea. “This contribution to project work in APEC reflects our desire to bring people, businesses and markets in the Asia-Pacific closer together in support of new growth and development solutions.”
APEC provides funding for around 100 projects annually focused largely on the transfer of knowledge, skills and technology between member economies to bridge capacity gaps and achieve shared policy objectives. In 2014, USD 9 million was available for APEC projects, ranging from policy research to technical workshops and training sessions. Over 2,000 have been undertaken since 1993, when APEC initiated project work and a Secretariat was established. Up to 150 may be under implementation at any given time.
Since 2012, Korea has been overseeing capacity building projects for promoting regional economic integration and the ultimate establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP—a trade agreement to build on ongoing regional undertakings such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and include all 21 APEC member economies, as called for by the region’s Leaders.
Projects under the APEC Regional Economic Integration Capacity Building Needs Initiative have, to date, focused on strengthening members’ bandwidth to address issues including dispute settlement, rules of origin and implementation of an FTAAP. A second phase of the initiative for 2015-2017 has been an agenda focus for APEC Senior Officials meeting on Thursday and Friday in Boracay, The Philippines. Phase two projects this year will also address issues including trade facilitation which involves the simplification customs procedures.
“The APEC Secretariat welcomes the Republic of Korea’s donation to the APEC Trade and Investment Liberalization Fund,” said Executive Director Dr Alan Bollard. “Contributions to capacity building offer a substantial return-on-investment and are especially timely given the potentially game-changing developments in trade and economic integration being led by APEC members right now.”
“The emerging agreements and complementary trade and growth-boosting measures being pursued in the Asia-Pacific are big, ambitious and have the potential to deliver significant new economic opportunities to people and businesses across the region,” Dr Bollard concluded. “Diverse economies must be on the same page, in terms of policy development and adoption, to ensure the kind of outcomes that everyone is looking for from this groundswell of change.”