APEC trade ministers meeting encourages digital economy

Trade ministers from member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) wrapped up their two-day meeting in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, on Saturday.

In a statement, the ministers reaffirmed their commitment to creating a free-trade bloc in the APEC region. The statement also reflected on the importance of internet, digital economy, as well as E-commerce and digital trade.

The trade ministers’ statement encouraged economies to constructively engage and support discussions in international fora, including the World Trade Organisation.

The statement also addressed areas including connectivity and deepening regional economic integration, promoting sustainable and inclusive growth, strengthening inclusive growth through structural reform, and strengthening economic and technical cooperation.

But there was no mention of steps to fight against protectionism. That message was instead mentioned in the statement of the chair.

Papua New Guinea Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Rimbink Pato issued a Statement of the Chair on Supporting the Multilateral Trading System. It reflects his assessment of the prevailing views of APEC economies.

The trade ministers are thought to have failed to reach an agreement on free trade at a time when US President Donald Trump is adopting protectionist measures and prefers bilateral trade deals to multilateral trade.

Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Rimbink Pato, said issues cannot be resolved so easily as member countries face different circumstances. He said they need to continue making efforts to create a free-trade bloc in the region.