Asia Pacific is a very important part of the world and one whose significance continues to grow. These are a group of countries with large populations who are starting to grow very, very quickly. Individually, their economies are developing, while their engagement with the global economy is changing. Increasingly, they’re seeking external investment, while demand from consumers for goods and services continues to grow.
Couple this with some already highly developed economies in the region like New Zealand and Australia, as well as others which are further along the development path, and it’s easy to see why Asia Pacific is playing an increasingly prominent role in the global economy.
At the same time, as the world is changing, the way we trade in it is following suit. When you look at the types of trade agreements that countries around the world are increasingly aspiring to implement – deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – they go far beyond simply seeking to eliminate tariffs amongst participants.
Rather, these types of agreements stand to have a marked impact on the economy and laws of the countries involved. They incorporate standards for the environment that must be upheld, set the rules of engagement for foreign investment and detail protections for intellectual property, to name but a few.
Concurrently, we need to consider aspects like labour protection, market access and how travel regulations are implemented. Ultimately, in my role as Minister of Trade – just as my counterparts from other countries will do the same – it’s about striking a balance that works for us as countries individually and as a region collectively.
I recently returned from the latest round of APEC meetings and if you look at all of the countries represented there, they will have differing views on a number of issues, but wholeheartedly, their economies have grown as a result of trade – and there are very few governments that want to turn their back on trade.
There will always be different approaches, but as a group and as a region, I’m confident that we will continue to find ways to work together and grow. The degree of commitment evident at the last round of APEC meetings only serves to reinforce that.
This is a job that both I and future trade ministers will need to continue to develop, foster and work hard for, but the success story of Asia Pacific is already hugely encouraging and shows little sign of slowing down any time soon.