Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb will participate in the 2014 APEC trade ministers’ meeting in Qingdao, China (17-18 May) before heading to Singapore for Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) talks.

APEC is the most important economic forum in the Asia-Pacific and an active driver of open trade and investment. It includes 21 member economies which account for 58 per cent of the world’s GDP and over two-thirds of Australia’s trade in goods and services.

The Qingdao meeting will focus on the current challenges facing the global economy, the role of regional economic integration as a spur to growth and progress of a forward work program for WTO negotiations. 

Mr Robb said he would take the opportunity to reiterate Australia’s interests in further liberalisation in the region, especially in agriculture, services and investment markets.

“Open and competitive services markets are a potential source of significant domestic growth for many economies and one key to avoiding the middle-income trap,” he said.

“Australia has an enviable reputation across a broad range of services and can play a major role in helping economies build capacity in the Asia Pacific region.”

APEC has been a leader in trade facilitation and the faster and less costly movement of goods and services in the region would benefit Australian businesses.

To recognise this, Australia will contribute $500,000 to APEC’s capacity-building work to improve supply chain performance.

“Australia’s contribution will also help implement the new WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation in the region,” Mr Robb said.

During the APEC talks the minister will also take part in a series of bilateral meetings with counterparts including China’s Minister for Commerce Gao Hucheng. Mr Robb will also prepare the ground for the G20 Trade Ministers meeting which he will host in Sydney in July.

On regional economic integration, Mr Robb said Australia supported China’s interest in adding impetus to APEC’s goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

“We believe the best way for APEC economies to prepare for an FTAAP is through on-going unilateral reform and the negotiation of high-quality, comprehensive FTAs.”

He said that in Qingdao he would continue to promote Australia’s interests in structural reform, cross-border education and infrastructure investment.

In Singapore (May 19-20) Mr Robb will meet with TPP ministers to advance negotiations and will also chair a major investment roundtable.

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