Shankaran Nambiar on Asian Integration in the Age of Trump

What to watch for when APEC leaders gather in Port Moresby.

Shankaran Nambiar on Asian Integration in the Age of Trump

Trade ministers of 16 countries from the Asia-Pacific region stand for a group photo during the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ministerial meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 22, 2017.

Credit: AP Photo/Hau Dinh

From November 12 to 18, Papua New Guinea will host the APEC Economic Leaders Week, culminating in a summit bringing together leaders from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) members. The annual summit, hosted by a different APEC member each year, provides an opportunity to make progress on economic, trade, and financial issues facing the region – and to take stock of previous efforts.

Ahead of this year’s meeting, Shankaran Nambiar, senior research fellow at the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, discusses what to watch for in Port Moresby and how regional economic integration is progressing amid broader global trends of protectionism. 

What are some of the key things we should expect from this year’s APEC summit meetings in November? 

I think there are two big questions that will be discussed at the upcoming APEC summit: connectivity and structural reform. These two big questions will, together, add up to address the issue of regional integration. Fundamentally, APEC member countries realize the crucial importance of creating a coalition of nations that want greater economic integration in its many forms. They will try to address it by examining how connectivity and structural reform can contribute to the process. 

Connectivity will go beyond mega infrastructure projects to encompass the digital economy. In so doing, the path will be laid for industrial revolution 4.0.

Structural reform, on the other hand, will include a whole host of issues that will reduce barriers to doing business and increase trade and investment among APEC member countries. In order to foster trade and investment, more attention should be paid to a more liberal economic environment and removing the obstacles to such an environment. This implies a reconsideration of the regulatory framework and the removal of unnecessary regulatory burden, which extends to the removal of non-tariff measures. 

Aside from that, the creation of more inclusive growth and greater participation of economic agents in the economy, be they women or small and medium enterprises, will have to be given due attention.