The Asia-Pacific region continued to grow amid persistent weakness in the global economy, with private and public consumption remaining the key drivers of growth. Trade in APEC started to weaken in 2012, contracting from late 2014 onwards. APEC’s low trade growth in recent years mirrors the performance of the rest of the world, which could be due to a confluence of factors. The IMF is of the view that overall subdued investment spending accounted for three-fourths of the slowdown in trade, while other contributing factors include the moderating pace of liberalization matched by the uptick in protectionist policies as well as the slower expansion in global value chains. To counter this negative feedback loop of low investment-weak trade-slower growth and especially, reflecting a shared goal of free and open trade and investment, Asia-Pacific economies have joined multilateral trade deals. Some of these trade agreements include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
In the latest 2016 Leaders’ Declaration in Lima, Peru, APEC Leaders reaffirmed their commitment towards the eventual realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). The FTAAP is envisioned to be a high-quality and comprehensive instrument that goes beyond the liberalization objective to include ‘next generation’ trade and investment issues. To help ensure that the FTAAP is realized, APEC Leaders recognize that meaningful contributions from open, transparent, and inclusive regional trade efforts are important. As such, the FTAAP should be built upon ongoing regional undertakings and other possible pathways, including the TPP and RCEP. The road to FTAAP requires focused work from APEC economies, particularly in identifying both specific areas of work that could be done to further promote free and open trade and investment in the region, and the challenges associated with regional economic integration. Sustained collective discussions will help shape APEC’s role in ensuring that addressing challenges and resolving issues are done in a manner that is inclusive, balanced, and beneficial to all APEC economies.
In this seminar, Dr Denis Hew will discuss the latest economic trends and trade and investment developments in the region. He will also cover the challenges of regional free trade agreements such as the FTAAP.
About the Speaker:
Dr Denis Hew is currently the Director of APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU). In this position, he is responsible for the work program and operations of the PSU, which is the research and analysis arm of APEC.
Before taking up his current appointment, Dr Hew was Regional Cooperation Specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), where he managed technical assistance and coordinated efforts on regional cooperation and integration in the Southeast Asia department. From 2001 to 2008, Dr Hew was Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator (Regional Economic Studies) at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Singapore. He was also for many years the Managing Editor of the ASEAN Economic Bulletin, a leading academic journal that focuses on policy-relevant economic issues in Southeast Asia. Dr Hew has written extensively on regional economic cooperation and integration, especially in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region.
Dr Denis Hew holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom and MSc and PhD in Finance from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.