Tuesday September 6, 2005
Indonesian Trade Minister Cautious On FTAs Among APEC Members
SEOUL, Sept 6 Asia Pulse - Indonesia’s trade minister expressed caution Tuesday on the formation of free trade agreements (FTAs) within the Asia Pacific region.
"Now is not the time for an FTA of the Asia Pacific," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said at the 16th Pacific Economic Cooperation Council held in Seoul.
"The concept of the FTA goes against the grain of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The concept of APEC and its way of doing business is very different to that implied by a legally binding trade agreement," the minister said.
Such discussions, said Pangestu, are circling as an alternative to the Bogor declaration from the 1994 APEC summit, which aims for a comprehensive free trade pact among APEC member states by 2020.
Pangestu, while mentioning the extensive range of the APEC members, said that trying to achieve consensus on an FTA among such a diverse range of nations would take considerable time.
"It can take up to five years just to conclude a bilateral FTA. An FTA with 21 diverse members would take much longer," the minister added.
The minister called for countries to move together in realizing the Bogor goals, saying that APEC can assist member states in achieving such goals by focusing on trade and investment facilitation, and technical cooperation.
The minister’s stance represents the reality of developing nations in Asia, including Indonesia, as their economies are limited in human and other resources, and their bargaining power is relatively weak.
"APEC members, particularly developing APEC members, are already struggling with over-crowded trade agenda," the Indonesian minister said, underlining the difficulties that such nations would have to cope with.
APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.