Vladivostok, Russia: Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says APEC has made significant and useful steps forward even though there were no earth—shaking changes this time round.
One such positive move, for example, is to cut tariffs on a list of eco—friendly goods like solar batteries and wind turbines to no more than 5 percent by 2015.
At the conclusion of this year’s APEC meeting on Sunday, leaders also reaffirmed the commitment to trade and investment liberalisation in the Asia—Pacific region.
During the two—day summit in Russia’s port city of Vladivostok, APEC leaders discussed how to deal with the challenges of an uncertain global economic climate.
APEC leaders said they are committed to strengthening domestic demand and creating jobs. They also want to reduce high public deficits and debts and implement reforms to boost economic growth.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "Today at lunch we had Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, come and we had quite a good discussion on how we saw the global economy, what the risks are in Europe and the emerging markets, the financial risks, the longer term structural issues.
"It’s important, because (though) APEC is in the Asia Pacific which is doing quite well...in fact we are part of the global economy and the problems in Europe, or connected to that, the fiscal problems in America, these will affect the whole world and will affect us.
"So, we need to know what’s happening there and what we need to do to strengthen ourselves against eventualities."
PM Lee also spoke on the progress of the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP, a free trade agreement which aims to further liberalise the economies of the Asia—Pacific region.
He said that there has been some progress but it is not settled yet. He hopes for a resolution within a reasonable time but cautioned it will not be imminent.
That is because the TPP is a free trade agreement that involves 11 countries and this can be a complicated exercise with many political sensitivities.
Furthermore, a major player in the TPP is the United States and the absence of US President Barack Obama at this year’s meeting meant significant progress was unlikely.
Bilateral trade with other nations was also very much on PM Lee’s mind when he met Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.
PM Lee said: "He’s very interested in developing links with the western side of the Pacific, and particularly with Singapore. And he thinks that there’s potential. I think in fact we have been developing ties with Chile. They are a member of the P4 which is the precursor of the TPP. So these are contacts which you do on the sidelines, which are valuable when you attend a meeting like this."
Another thorny issue APEC leaders had to deal with was the tension arising from the territorial disputes involving China, Japan and the Philippines.
The disputes were not on the official agenda, but the subject was brought up in bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
While the countries have different perspectives, Mr Lee said these issues will have to be managed and resolved in accordance with international laws.
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