APEC leaders today acknowledged the group had failed to reach the first milestone in a long-term goal to tear down trade and investment barriers across the region.
The confession came even as the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, pledged to take "concrete steps" to realise their grand aspirations for an eventual free-trade pact, embracing all their members.
APEC leaders who met in the Indonesian city of Bogor in 1994 had aimed to remove trade and investment hurdles for the group's developed members by 2010.
Developing members were given until 2020 to achieve the same goals. In a statement issued at the end of their summit in the Japanese port city of Yokohama today, the leaders said they had made "significant progress" toward achieving those goals, mostly in sharply reducing merchandise tariffs.
However, they added that "it is a fair statement to say that the 2010 economies have some way to go to achieve free and open trade in the region". While tariffs have fallen steeply, these cuts had not been uniform across all sectors, they said. Tariffs on clothing, agricultural products and textiles remain higher than the overall average duties across the APEC region.
In the services sector, restrictions remain in areas like finance, telecommunications, transportation and the movement of professionals.
Varying degrees of restrictions on investments are also still in place, the leaders acknowledged. "Given the significant impact of non-tariff measures on trade and investment flows, it is evident that further progress will need to be made in this area," the statement said.
Further reforms are also needed in harmonising standards, customs procedures, protecting intellectual property rights and promoting transparency in government procurement.
Structural reforms, including the building of seaports, airports, roads, rail links and other infrastructure to support trade should also be pursued. "APEC's challenge in pursuing free and open trade and investment continues," the leaders said. "APEC will continue to review economies' progress towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment." APEC is a grouping of 21 economies across both sides of the Pacific Ocean from Chile to China and the United States.