Free trade essential for sustained recovery, say Apec ministers

They also stress need for inclusive growth to dispel souring impressions of globalisation

Heads of state participate in a meeting of the Apec Business Advisory Council in Lima, Peru, on Nov 19, 2016.
Heads of state participate in a meeting of the Apec Business Advisory Council in Lima, Peru, on Nov 19, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

•Trade and foreign ministers from 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific region have reiterated their commitment to free trade, and emphasised the need for inclusive growth to counter souring perceptions of globalisation.

"We reaffirm that open trade policies are essential for sustained recovery and boosting growth for the coming years," said the ministers in a joint statement after the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Ministerial Meeting concluded on Friday.

They set out four priorities to drive growth: strengthening regional economic integration to improve job creation and living standards; enhancing the regional food market by increasing market access and thus improving food security; helping small businesses innovate and modernise; and developing workers.

The ministers also discussed a strategic study on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and instructed Apec officials to work on the study's recommendations so that all parties move towards its eventual realisation.

Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman took part in the meeting.

Dr Maliki spoke on food security and the importance of developing human capital, a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. He shared how Singapore overcomes land constraints by using indoor vertical vegetable production, investing in agriculture research and finding ways to reduce food wastage. "As a small island-state dependent on food imports to sustain our food system, Singapore embraces the importance of a universal, rules-based, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system."

As for developing workers, Dr Maliki spoke about Singapore's schemes such as the SkillsFuture initiative to encourage lifelong learning. "As a small country with limited resources, Singapore learnt early on that human capital is the most valuable and 'renewable' resource in nation building."

Dr Maliki also met ministers from Brunei, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia on the sidelines of the meeting.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Free trade essential for sustained recovery, say Apec ministers'. Subscribe