APEC Business Advisory Council urges heads of states to prioritize WTO reform

Business leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member states will raise before heads of states in their dialogue in November the need to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) and resolve the crisis in its dispute settlement body.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines called on heads of states to prioritize the reform of the WTO as it faces a crisis from within. The group also emphasized the importance of mitigating the impact of climate change, especially on the most vulnerable communities.

Business leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) member states will raise before heads of states in their dialogue in November the need to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) and resolve the crisis in its dispute settlement body.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines called on heads of states to prioritize the reform of the WTO as it faces a crisis from within. The group also emphasized the importance of mitigating the impact of climate change, especially on the most vulnerable communities.

ABAC Philippines Chairman Tomas I. Alcantara said the government should take part in strengthening the multilateral trading system and its rules, as it faces challenge from the breakdown of trade talks between the United States and China.

“The common trading framework provided by the WTO allows Philippine products to compete fairly in the global market. While it is not perfect, we should work to strengthen and improve the system, rather than undermine it,” Alcantara argued.

The expansion of world trade in recent decades, according to ABAC Philippines, has lifted over a billion people out of poverty. In the region, extreme poverty rate declined sharply to 1.8 percent in 2015, from 41.7 percent in 1990, while poverty rate fell to 13.4 percent, from 63.1 percent, over the same period.

ABAC Chairman Richard Von Appen of ABAC Chile said reforming the WTO system and, in particular, resolving the crisis in its dispute settlement body are two main agenda the group will deliver to Apec leaders in this year’s annual dialogue in November.

“We also need to reform the rules to make sure that the WTO remains relevant and fit for purpose—including to ensure that modern business models can flourish, and that women and MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] can access the opportunities and benefits of the global economy,” Appen said.

Established in 1995, the WTO sets the rules for global trade. The multilateral trading system, ABAC Philippines said, “provides for a more predictable and competitive international business environment,” under which developing economies, such as the Philippines, can play on a level playing field with their developed counterparts.

Further, ABAC Philippines wants leaders of Apec states to make climate change a priority issue to resolve over the next years, as poorer economies are apparently more at risk to the impact of drastic environment degradation.

“Climate change must be immediately addressed, citing serious risks and repercussions not only for business, but also for the rest of society. The world is getting increasing number of natural disasters, 70 percent of which occur in the Asia Pacific,” ABAC Philippines said.

“In the Philippines alone, typhoon Ompong, considered as the strongest typhoon in 2018 that also wreaked havoc in Guam, Hong Kong and southern China, brought $623 million in damages to public infrastructure and agriculture. The strongest, typhoon Yolanda, landed in 2013 cost over $1.85 billion in damages and left more than 7,000 dead,” it added.

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