A pleasant day, distinguished guests and participants. I wish to extend my warm greetings to everyone joining us from across the globe and different time zones.

Allow me to firstly thank the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Asia Pacific Services Coalition (APSC) for organizing this event. This dialogue is a welcome contribution to the review of the implementation of the APEC Services Competitiveness Roadmap.  As implementors of this Roadmap, our honest assessment in government, businesses, academia, and with industry experts can help build a more competitive services sector, one that will help us chart our path to a resilient and inclusive economy. 

I believe there is no better time than now, when economies are reopening, businesses are reorganizing, and people are adapting, that we should set a clear direction for our services sectors in a post pandemic world.

The services sector plays an increasingly important role in the global economy as it generates opportunities for greater income, productivity, employment, investment and trade. In 2019, the sector accounted for 65% of global GDP. According to the APEC Policy Support Unit’s report, services constitute more than half of GDP in majority of the APEC economies.  The APEC region has also established its significance to global trade with total global services exports valued at USD2.4-T in 2019, representing more than a third of the world’s total services exports. In the Philippines, it is one of our strongest and fastest growing sectors. Data show that the country’s services exports recorded a steady growth from 2009 to 2019, peaking at USD41-B worth of exports in 2019. It also accounted for 58.4% of total employment in the same year.

Recognizing these realities and the sector’s huge untapped potential, the Philippines spearheaded the crafting of a new APEC services agenda in 2015 to bring common direction and better coherence in strategies to enhance the competitiveness of the services sector. Through the 2015 APEC Services Cooperation Framework or ASCF, the Roadmap was finalized in 2016 in Peru, and committed all economies to develop the region’s services sector as an enabler of economic growth and inclusion. With a set of overarching targets and collective actions, APEC set the target for 2025 to increase its competitiveness in the services sector.

As we look back to the Roadmap’s implementation through the past years, I am pleased to note our good progress since the adoption of the Framework in 2015. However, the Services Roadmap’s Midterm Review showed uneven progress among the APEC economies. There appeared to be wide differences in access to the services markets which were further exacerbated by the pandemic.

Having said this, I think that the region can do more. The ASCR Midterm Review has provided us some insightful ideas on how we can make the benefits of our implementation more sustainable and far-reaching. On the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis, there are new areas that have emerged which may require our immediate attention and action.

While APEC’s services agenda may provide a comprehensive approach in improving the competitiveness of services sectors, we must also be cognizant of other discussions which can help us achieve our overall goal collectively and individually. More than providing access to services markets, it is imperative that we also provide a transparent and predictable regulatory environment to help services firms engage in the international market. Hence, it may be worth considering the work the WTO undertook to establish disciplines on services domestic regulations under the WTO Joint Statement Initiative discussions. Although considered as a plurilateral arrangement, it is encouraging to see that a group of like-minded members are ready to commit to a shared goal of mitigating the unintended trade restrictive effects of regulatory measures in their economies.

I strongly believe that disciplines for the good governance of our services markets is essential to creating new trade opportunities for firms. This is particularly true for our MSMEs who are often burdened by uncertain and costly requirements and procedures. Recognizing the significance of this work, I commend the APEC Group on Services for its achievement in endorsing the “Statement Encouraging Completion of the WTO Services Domestic Regulation.”

We all can play a role for a strong, resilient, and inclusive global recovery. Our strengthened resolve to implement and reinvigorate APEC’s services agenda will only demonstrate our commitment to provide an enabling business environment for our services firms. This evaluation has presented us the impetus we needed to finally walk the talk. Let us listen to what our experts and stakeholders have to say. We should use this opportunity to reassess our priorities and recalibrate our actions to ensure that we remain relevant and adaptable to the modern global economy.

APEC can still achieve a lot to implement the Services Roadmap until 2025. Let us make time work for us; let us do what needs to be done.

Thank you and I wish you all a fruitful discussion. ♦ 

Date of Release: 12 October 2021