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Opening Remarks by President Park Geun-hye at APEC Session One

Source : Cheong Wa Dae

I am grateful to President Yudhoyono and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia for preparing for the APEC Leaders' Meeting on this beautiful, time-honored resort island of Bali.

Since the global financial crisis in 2008, many countries have worked closely together for policy coordination, and as a result, the world economy has been gradually leveling off. Unfortunately, however, we are still faced with low growth and high unemployment and are struggling to find ways to maintain fiscal soundness. Therefore, it is time for all of us to come together and redouble efforts to overcome these difficulties.

It is important to coordinate macroeconomic and monetary policies for the revitalization of the global economy, but what the Korean Government has keenly realized in the process of surmounting the two global financial crises is that the promotion of free trade among countries through mutual openness is critical for economic revival. As many experts point out, trade liberalization is the most efficient and cost-effective policy in rejuvenating the economy, creating jobs and increasing consumer welfare without giving rise to fiscal burdens.

Prompted by the Bogor Declaration adopted in 1994, APEC member economies have created the most dynamic market in the world by means of mutual market opening and trade liberalization within the region. Building on such experiences, we now have to continue to spearhead the initiative to promote further development of the global free trade system.

Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System

First and foremost, APEC member economies should act as solid patrons of the multilateral trading system so that it can continue to prosper. Though regionalism has been spreading lately, the multilateral trading system centered on the World Trade Organization is still vital in strengthening free trade and trade regulations at the global level and deterring protectionist moves.

The powerful driving force that helped Korea to achieve its rapid economic growth in the past was enhanced free trade with countries around the world under the GATT regime. Many other developing countries are hoping that the multilateral trading system will continue to grow in strength so that they will be able to climb the ladder of growth put up by the World Trade Organization just as Korea once did.

If the impasse on the WTO Doha Development Agenda continues as it does now, the question could arise whether global trade liberalization can be guaranteed by the WTO. The confidence in the multilateral trading system could also be compromised. In this connection, APEC leaders need to issue a message that strongly urges efforts for progress in WTO negotiations so that the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Bali at the end of this year can achieve good results.

APEC has so far played a leading role in promoting trade liberalization by helping successfully conclude the Uruguay Round and reach an agreement on the WTO Information Technology Agreement as well as adopting an APEC list for trade liberalization of environmental goods last year. Given this track record, I believe APEC will be able to carry out its role well this time.

As part of efforts to make sure that the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali will become a milestone to reassure the world about the reliability of the multilateral trading regime, the Korean Government will provide all possible assistance to Indonesia, the chair of the conference. I am looking forward to your joint efforts.

Responding to Protectionism

Second, APEC member nations have to take the initiative in preventing the spread of protectionist moves around the world. A truly worrisome development is that a variety of protectionist measures such as non-tariff barriers have been spreading in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. Still worse, the growth of global trade has also slowed down since 2012. It is only natural for a country whose economy is worsening to be tempted to bolster its protectionist measures. However, the invaluable lesson we have learned from history is that the spread of protectionism decelerates economic recovery.

A nation's seemingly insignificant protectionist moves could trigger retaliatory actions from other nations, a process which is highly likely to cause a vicious cycle and finally lead nations involved to resort to enhanced measures of protectionism. For this reason, it is necessary for all countries to remain alert against any protectionist moves, no matter how trivial they seem, and make joint efforts to stop their spread.

In this context, I welcome the fact that APEC leaders have reaffirmed their pledge to extend the standstill commitment on trade protectionism until the end of 2016. The standstill commitment has to be put into practice faithfully so that the objection to protectionism would not turn out to be a mere slogan. It is also necessary to continuously enhance the effective monitoring of the implementation by establishing an institutional mechanism through international organizations such as the WTO.

Coordinating Discussions on Regional Integration

Last, we must work together to ensure that the various discussions on regional integration that are taking place within APEC proceed transparently and with equal participation by all countries. This will help to create the conditions necessary for realizing our goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

While it is true that multiple, concurrent discussions are already taking place within the region today, these are streams and the FTAAP is the river. We must see to it that the streams flow toward the river.

APEC member economies already have experience in moving from small-scale integration to large-scale integration. For example, trade liberalization efforts by ASEAN member states began with six bilateral FTAs with six neighboring countries; negotiations today are looking toward a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that would link 16 countries. The Pacific Four agreement likewise began with four countries and is now headed for an expansion to 12 countries. These discussions must become the foundation in our efforts to achieve a high-standard FTAAP.

To bolster this process, information about the ongoing discussions must be shared on all sides and transparency must be strengthened. Information sharing will allow us to identify and share our best practices, with these going on to provide a common base on which to proceed with our respective negotiations; such coordination will in turn help to propel talks on an FTAAP.

Active efforts must also be made to address what has been singled out as the biggest obstacle to realizing an FTAAP: disparities in the capacity of member economies to undertake free trade agreements. Among the APEC economies, there are members that accumulated a wealth of experience in the process of pursuing various FTAs; on the other hand, there are members that have much less experience. Working to ensure fair conditions and improving understanding of FTAs will jumpstart progress toward an FTAAP.

Korea is very pleased with the successful results that have come out of the various capacity-building projects being carried out with broad participation and support by APEC member economies. We will continue to take an active part in such cooperative projects and make our contribution to trade liberalization.

With today's discussions as a basis, I hope the 2013 APEC Leaders’ Meeting will become an important milestone that serves to further trade liberalization around the world.

Thank you very much.

Government Press Release published on October 7, 2013

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