Con­nec­tiv­ity key to bol­ster links

Blue­print will cover hard­ware, soft­ware and peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes among its mem­bers

China Daily (Canada) - - ADVERTISEMENT - By ZHONG­NAN zhong­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Asia-Pa­cific economies will count on en­hanced re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity to stim­u­late trade and at­tract in­vest­ment as they pur­sue de­ci­sive mea­sures to im­prove re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion.

As­sis­tant Min­is­ter of Com­merce Wang Shouwen said that re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity is among the 21 mem­ber economies’ top pri­or­i­ties when it comes to pro­mot­ing com­pre­hen­sive de­vel­op­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, in­vest­ment, re­gional trade and tourism.

Wang said that China wants to speed up the for­mu­la­tion of the APEC Blue­print on Con­nec­tiv­ity, which in­volves hard­ware, soft­ware and peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes to pro­vide a strong foun­da­tion for the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion’s long-term de­vel­op­ment.

“The blue­print will be help­ful in ad­dress­ing the achieve­ments and chal­lenges to con­nec­tiv­ity in this re­gion, as well as key ini­tia­tives for en­hanced APEC con­nec­tiv­ity and strate­gies for im­ple­men­ta­tion,” saidWang.

Hard­ware (or phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity) in­cludes mar­itime, land and air trans­port, en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy.

Soft­ware (or in­sti­tu­tional con­nec­tiv­ity) com­prises cus­toms, sup­ply chains, fi­nance, reg­u­la­tory co­her­ence and struc­tural re­form.

Peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­nec­tiv­ity in­cludes business mo­bil­ity, stu­dent and re­searcher mo­bil­ity, tourism fa­cil­i­ta­tion, la­bor and pro­fes­sional mo­bil­ity and cross-bor­der ed­u­ca­tion.

Yu Ping, vice-chair­man of the China Coun­cil for the Pro­mo­tion of In­ter­na­tional Trade, said that the top pri­or­ity is to es­tab­lish a flex­i­ble phys­i­cal trans­porta­tion net­work through­out the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion to fur­ther stim­u­late eco­nomic growth.

“The APEC economies, par­tic­u­larly those in South­east Asia and South Amer­ica, such as Viet­nam, In­done­sia, Peru and Chile, are build­ing new plat­forms for broader co­op­er­a­tion with ma­jor APEC economies,” said Yu.

Th­ese plat­forms in­clude up­graded lo­gis­tics ser­vices, gi­ant in­ter­na­tional shipping com­pa­nies, new air routes, pipe­lines, port fa­cil­i­ties and land and sea telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“From a long-term view, the new mech­a­nism will fully support trade, pri­vate in­vest­ment, in­dus­trial pro­duc­tiv­ity and the ser­vice sec­tor in the APEC re­gion,” said Phai­chit Vi­boon­tanasarn, com­mer­cial min­is­ter at the Thai­land Em­bassy in Beijing.

Chen Ying­ming, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the Shang­hai-based China Port and Har­bors As­so­ci­a­tion, said that rail, road and sea con­nec­tiv­ity projects be­tween Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia this year set an ex­am­ple for the de­vel­op­ment of sim­i­lar routes among the APEC economies.

APEC lead­ers agreed in Sin­ga­pore in 2009 to com­mit to en­hanc­ing trans­porta­tion routes to pro­mote con­nec­tiv­ity.

And in ad­di­tion to APEC mem­bers, 21 Asian coun­tries — in­clud­ing Bangladesh, Brunei, Cam­bo­dia, China, In­dia, Kaza­khstan, Kuwait, Laos and Malaysia — signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing last month in Beijing to es­tab­lish the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank. The bank will de­velop re­gional business ac­tiv­ity through bet­ter-de­vel­oped trans­porta­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

The bank will be an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal re­gional de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tion in­Asia. As agreed, Beijing will be the host city for the AIIB's head­quar­ters. It is ex­pected that the prospec­tive found­ing mem­bers will com­plete the

re­gional sign­ing and rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the ar­ti­cles of agree­ment in 2015 and the AIIB will be for­mally es­tab­lished by the end of 2015.

APEC economies, es­pe­cially China, South Korea, Thai­land and the United States, are keen to en­cour­age peo­pleto-peo­ple con­nec­tiv­ity to drive ad­vances in the ed­u­ca­tional sec­tor and as­sist mem­ber na­tions or re­gions to bet­ter re­spond to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as ex­treme weather, earth­quakes and tsunamis.

APEC de­vel­oped a business travel card in 1996. Hold­ers of the card can travel visa-free among APEC mem­ber economies.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, plans have been made to set up an emer­gency re­sponse travel card to al­low for fast re­sponse by APEC mem­ber economies to dis­as­ter zones to fa­cil­i­tate lo­cal eco­nomic and in­fra­struc­ture re­cov­ery.

Zhang Shao­gang, di­rec­tor­gen­eral of the Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Trade and Eco­nomic Af­fairs at the Min­istry of Com­merce, said that im­prov­ing con­nec­tiv­ity among gov­ern­ments, multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and in­flu­en­tial aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions can be away to op­ti­mize the in­dus­trial struc­ture.

“To help small economies in the re­gion, APEC economies such as China, the US, Aus­tralia and Ja­pan should share their best prac­tices in the ar­eas of trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture, in­vest­ment and op­er­a­tions,” Zhang said.

How­ever, re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity means huge pri­vate and gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and an­cil­lary projects, and rais­ing funds takes time.

In the cur­rent global econ­omy, Zhang said the risks may stay high, as there are heavy con­cerns about the fea­si­bil­ity and prof­itabil­ity of large-scale build­ing and bridge projects.

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