Tito Summa Siahaan
Indonesia aims to make the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation more resilient during its time next year as chair of the grouping of mostly Pacific Rim countries, a top diplomat said on Monday.
Yuri Octavian Thamrin, the director general of Asia Pacific and Africa cooperation at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Indonesia wants to keep up the momentum of economic cooperation between APEC countries.
Trade between APEC countries has expanded five-fold to $16.8 trillion from $3.1 trillion in 1989 , while global trade grew 4.6 times to $21.1 trillion from $4.6 trillion during the same period, Yuri said in his keynote speech at a forum organized by the University of Indonesia.
He added that the International Monetary Fund predicts average gross domestic product growth for APEC countries at 4.2 percent this year, while global GDP growth is tipped at 3.5 percent.
As chair of APEC, he said, the Indonesian government will promote sustainable economic growth and seek to bridge the developmental gap between member countries.
This goal, Yuri said, can be achieved by improving connectivity and increasing economic partnerships. Increasing investment among member countries is also worth considering, he added.
“There’s an excess of capital in the region,” he added, citing China’s substantial currency reserves.
With regard to improving connectivity, Yuri said the government will highlight the country’s distinctive archipelagic geography and its sea-based industries. “We will put forward the notion of a “blue economy” while promoting environmental protection.”
But trade expert Lepi Tarmidi was less positive about the relevance of APEC, saying the organization was too broad, and its goal to establish a free trade area in the region was unrealistic.
Speak at the same forum, he highlighted the fact that APEC lacks the authority to create a legally-binding agreement.
“Trade between APEC countries is growing because of bilateral agreement between its members. [The success of] the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement is not the success of APEC,” Lepi added.
Rather than trying to establish a free trade area in the wider Asia Pacific region, APEC should encourage bilateral or sub-regional cooperation among its member countries, he said.
But Yuri defended APEC, saying it remained relevant despite lacking in authority to create a legally binding agreement.
“The strength of APEC is creating a partnership not through coercion but by convincing all parties. Because of this approach, for examples, many of discussions being held up at the World Trade Organization could be pushed through APEC,” he said.
Yuri said that APEC has had several success since its inception in 1989, especially in terms of fostering interdependence among member countries. He called for Southeast Asian countries to form a united position for next year’s APEC forum.