Business and political leaders hold dialogue

Leaders attend the APEC-ASEAN dialogue on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov 10, 2017.
Leaders attend the APEC-ASEAN dialogue on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov 10, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

DANANG (Vietnam) • Business leaders from Singapore and the rest of the Pacific Rim yesterday met political leaders attending this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.

The executives are members of the Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac), a private sector body that meets four times a year to advise Apec leaders on the priorities and concerns of companies in the region. Formed in 1995, Abac is currently made up of 63 members representing leading businesses in the region. Each of the 21 Apec leaders can nominate up to three senior business executives to take part.

The trio from Singapore are Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng and chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit, and DBS Bank's group executive for institutional banking Jeanette Wong.

Most of the Apec leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, were present at the closed-door dialogue. Those absent included US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Before the meeting, Abac formally submitted a 66-page report to Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang on the group's recommendations for sustaining the momentum for inclusive growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. In an accompanying letter to Mr Quang, Abac 2017 chairman Hoang Van Dung noted that the global economy remained fragile, despite some signs of regeneration in trade flows.

"We call on your collective leadership to inject new impetus to bring the Asia-Pacific region back to the dynamic trajectory that will be needed to achieve innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth," Mr Dung said in the letter that was also signed by his two co-chairs.

"In the face of domestic discontent and economic challenges, the temptation to resort to short-term protectionism policies can be strong. But we urge you to show determination in pressing ahead towards our shared vision of Apec."

Speaking to reporters after the dialogue, Mr Ho stressed the importance of effective structural reform in achieving regional economic integration and inclusive growth. "We wanted to make the point that it is not just enough these days to only be plugging away at lowering trade barriers," he said. "The main component of growth is structural reform, and this means every country has to get its domestic policies in order."

Lee U-Wen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Business and political leaders hold dialogue'. Print Edition | Subscribe