Opportunity for upside potential exists within trade facilitation

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An opportunity for upside potential exists within trade facilitation as the world faces a period of heightened uncertainty and economic fragility, which could significantly slow trade and economic activity in the near term.

APEC Policy Support Unit director Carlos Kuriyama, analyst Rhea Crisologo Hernando and researcher Glacer Niño Vasquez said while the number of trade-restrictive measures accumulated as of end-2023 amid the downturn in trade of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region, there was an increase in measures aimed at enabling the free flow of trade.

In an APEC bulletin, Kuriyama, Hernando and Vasquez said 64 new trade-facilitating measures were introduced last year, mostly focused on reducing import tariffs and removing export bans. The number of trade-facilitating measures rose to 682 in 2023. 

On the other hand, the accumulated number of trade-restrictive measures as of end-2023 has risen to 491 while trade remedies in force have reached 953, primarily consisting of antidumping measures and countervailing duties, they said.

Moreover, the authors said geographical concerns are playing a growing role in shaping global trade dynamics as seen in increased “friendshoring” and geoeconomic fragmentation where trading preferences tend to lean more toward economies with similar views.

“At the same time, there has been a general decline in the diversification of trade partners, pointing to a concentration of global trade within major trading partners,” they said.

Aside from trade facilitation, the APEC bulletin underscored that productivity-enhancing technologies are another upside opportunity for the region.

Kuriyama, Hernando and Vasquez said that over the medium-term, the adoption of modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), has the potential to increase worker productivity and income.

“The extent of these benefits depends on how well economies harness AI’s potential and address associated challenges. This would require a strategic approach that combines technological investment, workforce readiness, and the promotion of innovation,” they said.

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