Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week closed at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) headquarters in Bangkok today, with the adoption of a set of concrete policy recommendations aimed at improving regional cooperation, amidst a climate of global economic uncertainties.
Policymakers from over 30 countries and representatives of regional bodies underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved through protectionist policies. Instead, the region and the global economy need targeted trade and investment liberalization policies that are more inclusive and mindful of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
During the ESCAP Trade and Investment Committee, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar highlighted that for trade and investment to be fully used as means of implementation for the SDGs, effective national governance is needed to achieve synergies between trade, investment, facilitation and complementary policies, including those affecting social and environmental outcomes.
“ESCAP’s analytical work offers a strong case for expanding multilateral and regional cooperation to promote trade and investment liberalisation, but doing so with due regard to ensuring policies and investments minimise the social and environmental risks.”
In his inaugural address to the Committee, H.E. Mr. Winichai Chaemchaeng, Vice Minister of Commerce of Thailand added, “ESCAP could have a vital role to play when it comes to knowledge sharing that would support governments’ initiatives on human resource development and training, as well as policy support.”
Key recommendations of the Committee included better integrating the social and environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in trade and investment agreements, and reducing intra-regional trade costs through implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific. The Committee also called for increased regional capacity building for evidence-based policymaking through the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT). The Committee acknowledged that the private sector has the potential to enable inclusive growth and called for ESCAP to enhance its engagement with the business community.
The Committee was one of the main events held during the Fifth Trade and Investment Week convened by ESCAP and partners from 30 October to 3 November. The week featured five side events including a high-level dialogue on safeguarding multilateral trading systems for sustainable development, in preparation for the WTO Ministerial Conference later this year. Youth and the digital economy will define the future of the trade and investment landscape in the Asia-Pacific, so for the first time, the week also provided a platform for young entrepreneurs to share their views on trade and investment policies for sustainable development.
Discussions at the Committee were informed by findings in the ESCAP Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017 launched on 30 October. The report sent a strong message that trade and investment are powerful engines for growth and sustainable development but ‘business as usual’ policies are not sufficient to address the three dimensions of sustainable development effectively. The report also emphasized that cutting trade costs and deepening regional cooperation are key to ensuring the benefits of trade and investment can be shared across the region.