The24th APEC Ministerial Meeting and 20th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting were both held last week at Vladivostok, Russia, carrying a theme of “Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper.” Russia—the host for these meetings—has included four issues to meeting agenda for the economies in 20 economic zones to consider. There are also issues continuing from the previous meeting and additional matters proposed by Russia, e.g., liberalization of trade and investment, regional economic integration, establishment of reliable supply chains, greater food security and intensive cooperation to innovative growth.
Currently, APEC member countries support liberalization as well as greater regional trade and investment – APEC's main mission. Striving to enhance their role in the region, Russia is ready to support cooperation within APEC.
As a relatively small country, Thailand may face some challenges in pursuing APEC goals. Regarding conditions for the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP), developing countries may not ready for liberalization, particularly for agriculture and services, as well as intellectual property rights (IPR) protection as the scope is wider than that required by the WTO. However, the goal of FTAAP should help drive integration of small countries, e.g., with the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP), and ASEAN+6 (consisting of ASEAN plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India) for their greater strength and international bargaining power. Also, these agreements could favor our economy and trade.
Thailand may not become a TPP member, since we are concerned about its plans toward labor liberalization, environmental issues, intellectual property and government sector procurement links. We will nevertheless have to consider these matters carefully, because Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc., are becoming involved in this dialogue.
Aside from the TPP, ASEAN+6—the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—should also be monitored because China – a leading country in these negotiations – is our top export destination. After the successful integration of ASEAN+6, which tends to be more workable than the TPP and FTAAP, it could become the world's largest free trade area, with a value of USD 20 trillion, accounting for 27.3 percent of global trade value in 2011. As a part of ASEAN+6, Thailand would derive benefit from greater trade and investment opportunities within this relatively large market. Thus, the development of the above integration plans, coupled with the APEC framework, should be watched to ascertain the best way to proceed for increased trade with other nations within each framework.
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