Mon, 17 Oct 1994

Trade liberalization sought

JAKARTA (JP): A business advisory group of APEC suggested here Saturday that the forum accelerate trade and investment liberalization, improve business facilitation, promote human resource development and improve the government-business sector partnership.

"The Pacific Business Forum (PBF) recommends that the implementation of free trade and investment liberalization in the region be completed by the year 2002 by the developed economies, and no later than the year 2010 by the developing economies," a co-chairman of PBF, Les McCraw of the United States, told reporters after meeting with President Soeharto at Merdeka Palace on Saturday.

He said the suggestion on the trade and investment liberalization is part of the recommendations presented to Soeharto, who is this year's chairman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

The recommendations were contained in a report, entitled "A Business Blueprint for APEC," which was formulated by the business forum during its three meetings after its establishment in June 1994.

Co-chairman Bustanil Arifin of Indonesia said the implementation of the trade and investment liberalization program must be consistent with the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) or the World Trade Organization (WTO) and pursued in parallel with multilateral action.

PBF's recommendation on free trade is more progressive than that of APEC's Eminent Persons Group (EPG), which recommended in August that all APEC members achieve free trade within the region by 2020.


Recognizing that APEC economies are all competing for a limited number of foreign investment dollars, PBF is urging APEC leaders to adopt the Asia Pacific Investment Code at their second meeting in Bogor, south of here, on Nov. 15, the report said.

"This code will assist in reducing uncertainties and transaction costs of investment and investment-related trade, as well as encouraging the development of informal, cooperative approaches to resolving investment-related disputes," he said

The report acknowledged that investment in some APEC economies encounters by various impediments, including excessive approval requirements, limits on the share of ownership, mandatory partnering and exporting, low standards for the protection of intellectual property rights and monopolistic practices.

To improve business facilitation, PBF recommended that APEC economies take measures to accelerate customs processing, such as simplifying customs documentation, using electronic means of customs documentation and processing, developing an APEC electronic tariff database and harmonizing customs classification.

The forum also suggested relaxing visa requirements, accelerating visa processing, introducing visa-free entry facility for the citizens of other APEC members for short stays and issuing temporary work permits for professional visits.

To promote the protection of intellectual property rights, APEC economies should begin implementation of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Issues (TRIPs) agreement as soon as possible, develop credible enforcement with penalties and conduct public education, the forum said in the report.

The forum also suggested that APEC leaders agree to establish separate regional mechanisms to settle commercial disputes between businesses in APEC members through mediation and arbitration.


PBF also recommended that APEC governments adopt a transparent, open style of administration to reduce opportunities for discretionary and discriminatory behavior and institute tough legal actions against corrupt practices, while businesses should adopt better accounting and auditing methods to make it difficult to hide corrupt practices.

The APEC leaders are also expected to institute programs that will provide capital for small and medium enterprises and create linkages between large and smaller businesses.

A comprehensive plan for region-wide infrastructure development in key sectors should also be drawn up to promote cooperation among member economies, the report said, adding that a meeting of ministers responsible for telecommunications policies should be held in 1995 to discuss information infrastructure development.

McCraw said PBF is also suggesting that a permanent APEC Business Advisory Forum be established to provide direct input on business issues to APEC leaders and make annual recommendations on improving the business environment in the region.

Abdul Rachman Ramly, a member of PBF, said that President Soeharto, who will preside over the Bogor leadership meeting, promised to use the forum's report as a reference.

APEC groups Australia, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Chile will join next month. (riz)

Editorial -- Page 4

Trade -- Page 10