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- 31 month(s) ago
Import and export costs in the Asia-Pacific region fell five percent between 2006 and 2010, resulting in savings of nearly $60 billion, a research paper said Tuesday.
The decline offered a promising sign trade facilitation measures were bearing fruit and showed that further easing of barriers could help sustain the region's growth amid the shaky global economy, the research team's head said. The study carried out for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum showed that while fees and charges for traded goods rose during that period, the time it took to clear transactions was cut by two days. This resulted in a five percent drop in trade transaction costs, said the paper to be circulated among APEC trade ministers and officials meeting in Honolulu this week ahead of a weekend leaders' summit. "The reduction is good news for businesses and economies in the Asia-Pacific region," said Denis Hew, director of the APEC Policy Support Unit which did the research. "Given the uncertainty of the global economy, trade facilitation is now even more crucial to supporting sustainable economic growth," he said in a statement. The International Monetary Fund last month trimmed its growth forecasts for Asia this year and next, and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council think-tank said there was a "growing sense of pessimism" about the region's economic growth. "Reducing trade transaction costs boosts the profitability of businesses and helps create jobs. Introducing measures so that goods flow more easily... also increases the competitiveness of markets and brings lower prices for consumers," said Hew. Amid increasingly complex trade across the Pacific rim, streamlining and simplifying of import and export procedures is "paramount," he added. The paper said total fees and charges for traded goods within the 21 Pacific Rim economies stretching from Chile to China via the United States climbed in real terms by $6.3 billion between 2006 and 2010. However, the cost savings resulting from easier trade totalled $65 billion, which means a net saving of $58.7 billion, it said. Transaction costs include fees and charges plus the monetary value of the time spent getting goods to market, and cover the process from document preparation, customs clearance, shipping, and handling at ports to trucking the goods to their final destination. According to the research, it took 15 days on average to complete an export-import transaction within APEC for a single, standard container of goods in 2010, down from 17 days in 2006. To achieve this, officials were tasked to streamline customs procedures, standards and conformance, and business mobility, and reduce paper work through electronic trading. Monica Contreras, chair of APEC's Committee on Trade and Investment, said more needed to be done. "While we are enthusiastic about the progress made by APEC, we also recognize that there is more that can be done to improve trade facilitation across the region, therefore further efforts in this regard have been already deployed," she said in a statement. APEC, a loose grouping focused on tearing down trade barriers, has been criticized as a mere talk shop because commitments made under its auspices are not legally binding. Apart from the trade discussions, this week's series of meetings in Honolulu will involve foreign and finance ministry officials. The meetings will culminate in a November 12-13 summit hosted by US President Barack Obama for the leaders of China, Russia, Canada, Chile and 16 other Pacific Rim economies.
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