A meeting at APEC SOM-1 (Illustrative image. Source: VNA)
Khanh Hoa (VNA) – As part of the first APEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1) and related meetings, the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) – Committee of the Whole (COW) convened its meeting in Nha Trang city, south central province of Khanh Hoa, on February 28.

In his opening remarks, Vietnamese Permanent Deputy Foreign Minister and APEC 2017 SOM Chair Bui Thanh Son said built on the overarching theme of "Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future" as well as the outcomes and deliverables from the past years, and after careful consultation with member economies, Vietnam has proposed four priorities for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Year 2017.

According to the Deputy Minister, the first priority is to promote sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth. Structural reform and innovation play a significant role in bolstering growth and improving productivity. Human resource development, education, lifelong learning and re-skilling in particular, will be crucial to ensure all segments of our societies can actively participate in the workforce and benefit from the technological revolution.

The second priority is on regional economic integration and connectivity. It is important for APEC to accelerate the realisation of the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in Asia Pacific with a new sense of urgency. APEC needs to fulfill the unfinished businesses to achieve the Bogor Goals. At the same time, APEC needs to envision its future and role in the region and the world.

Son stressed that the APEC members need to reaffirm its support to the multilateral trading system, and implement the Lima Declaration on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). It is also important to continue implementation of the APEC Connectivity Blueprint, enhance global value chains and supporting industries, and facilitate cross-border e-commerce, investment and services.

The third priority is to help create dynamism for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) - a key driver of the region's growth, which account for about 97 percent of the total number of APEC businesses. The APEC members should seek ways to make value chains more inclusive, with greater participation of MSMEs, focus on creating a more enabling business environment for MSMEs in the digital age and promote start-ups and innovative MSMEs, Son said.

Improving food security and achieve sustainable agriculture is the fourth priority for APEC 2017. This is the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The transfer and application of technology will be crucial to improving agricultural productivity and resilience to climate change. The APEC members will need to collaborate to sustainably manage resources, including water, while pursuing existing efforts related to the food market and sustainable and inclusive development of rural areas.

The diplomat went on to say that these priorities are aligned with the medium-term priorities the SCE has established for the 2015 – 2019 period. As a SOM-level Committee, Son said, the SCE plays a very important role in overseeing the efficient functioning of all its working groups and forums, enhancing cross-forum collaboration to better address cross-cutting issues, as well as steering the APEC work on Ecotech.

The four priorities of APEC 2017 contain lots of cross-cutting issues, which require close collaboration among relevant APEC committees, working groups and forum. Therefore, very much count on the support and contribution of the SCE to the overall work of APEC this year, he concluded.

The APEC forum includes 21 members - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

By the end of November 2016, the APEC member economies accounted for 39 percent of the world’s population and made up 59 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 48 percent of the global trade value.-VNA