Opening Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman at the 2014 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers' Meeting
November 7, 2014
* As Prepared for Delivery*
"I would like to start by thanking China for its hospitality and continued leadership of this important forum.
"When APEC was founded 25 years ago, the global economic landscape was dramatically different.
"The Uruguay Round negotiations were still ongoing, and the establishment of the WTO was still several years away. Yet even then, there was a clear vision for what the economies of the Asia-Pacific could accomplish if they worked together to promote integration, reduce barriers to trade and investment, and create sustainable growth, jobs and opportunity for our people.
"And that vision set 25 years ago has translated into real and meaningful results.
"Since APEC’s founding, average tariffs in the region have fallen from nearly 17 percent to 5.7 percent in 2012 and 45 percent of tariffs across the region are now at zero.
"Progress has also been made in services liberalization, although much work remains.
"And APEC has contributed to peace and prosperity, ultimately delivering jobs, growth and rising standards of living for our people.
"APEC has contributed to these results in three main ways.
"First, APEC has carried out a series of initiatives focused on addressing concrete issues that facilitate trade across the region.
"For example, APEC’s trade facilitation program has been in place for more than a decade. Under this initiative, APEC economies have taken a variety of steps – such as adopting electronic customs processing systems – that have reduced the average time needed for goods to clear customs. This has reduced trade transaction costs in the region by 10 percent from 2002 to 2012. Reductions during the 2007 to 2010 period alone saved businesses nearly $60 billion, to the benefit of consumers across the region.
"In addition, APEC has also been on the forefront of work to improve the quality of the regulations in the Asia-Pacific for exporters, which has contributed to a significant reduction in non-tariff barriers in the region.
"Second, APEC has taken the lead by addressing emerging issues.
"For example, APEC in 2012 agreed to reduce tariffs to 5 percent or less on a list of 54 environmental goods. And that work kicked off the Environmental Goods Agreement at the WTO.
"APEC has also worked to ensure that innovation policy in the region is market-driven and non-discriminatory, and has taken steps to educate economies on how localization barriers to trade have the potential to serve as serious obstacles to Asia-Pacific economic integration.
"Finally, APEC has played a significant role in supporting and shaping the multilateral trading system and in fostering negotiations of high-standard bilateral and regional trade negotiations such as the TPP.
"In addition to providing the impetus behind the launch of the WTO Information Technology Agreement in 1996, APEC economies have been at the forefront of efforts to liberalize trade multilaterally and to strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system at the WTO.
"We are hopeful that economies will continue to work to adhere to the level of ambition necessary to reach an ITA agreement. It would be a concrete contribution to strengthening the WTO system at a time when such a boost is needed.
"The agenda to promote free and open trade and investment in APEC has encouraged economies to pursue bilateral and regional trade agreements – with high standards that they have agreed should be pursued in APEC.
"Looking ahead to the next 25 years of APEC, the question to ask ourselves is, how does this organization continue to make a valuable contribution to the future of trade and investment policy.
"When APEC was created, it was a unique forum – there were no other Asia-Pacific organizations that focused on trade and investment. Now, there are a number of other arrangements in place and being negotiated.
"Given this, APEC will need to continue to rise to the challenge and address new technologies, new modes of doing business, and emerging issues to stay relevant and add value.
"As we consider how to guide APEC in the right direction, I think the three priority pillars highlighted this year by China - regional economic integration, innovative development, and connectivity – provide us with a framework to address these challenges and shape a forward agenda that will guide us for the next 25 years.
"Allow me to conclude by again thanking our hosts – China – for bringing us all here together to advance this ambitious agenda. I look forward to our discussion."