Trade facilitation helps to promote resilient economic growth and development, according to Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, and Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In their opinion editorial entitled “APEC shows the way on trade”, Dr Bollard and Mr Lamy highlighted the gains that the APEC region has already achieved from opening up its markets to trade and indicated that there is potential for further growth.

Noting that the APEC goal to improve supply chain performance by 10 per cent by 2015 could boost the region’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) by a further $21 billion, Dr Bollard and Mr Lamy called for countries to “take positive steps to unlock the potential for trade to grow stronger.”

To facilitate trade, Dr Bollard and Mr Lamy wrote that it is important to reduce and eliminate trade barriers and not adopt “isolationist policies”. The “cutting [of] red tape for importers and exporters, at and behind the border” is also key in ensuring that “goods and services are delivered quickly” and efficiently.

Commenting on the average costs of moving goods across borders due to tariffs and other technical barriers to trade, they stated that these costs could “become impediments to trade” for small and medium enterprises “which account for much of the world’s businesses and jobs.”

Dr Bollard and Mr Lamy further highlighted the important role that the private sector has to play in facilitating trade across the region, and more widely across the globe.

In ASEAN, the recent launch of the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) demonstrates the private sector’s efforts to help facilitate intra- and extra-regional trade and help accelerate the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community.

FIA Executive Director, Bev Postma, said the establishment of AFBA will help stimulate the free flow of food products across the ASEAN markets.

“The food industry in ASEAN plays an important role in the region’s economic development – it employs more than four million people, through 300,000 companies - 95 per cent of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The success of ASEAN’s efforts to stimulate the free flow of food products across the region, and more widely across the globe, is important for the overall economic development of the region.

“Working alongside the public sector and other key stakeholders, AFBA seeks to accelerate the harmonisation of standards and promote a collaborative approach in achieving sustainable growth for the region.

“It will also support ASEAN’s single market goals by working to achieve common food standards, helping to drive the efficient production and movement of safe, high quality food between countries,” she said.