Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 7

February 27, 2014


APEC officials seem at last to have got excited about services. It would be nice to think that this is a result of ABAC’s persistent nagging over the ubiquity of services in all parts of our economies, and the importance of efficiently delivered services in enhancing productivity and improving competitiveness. But we may have an inflated idea of our influence. Clearly important was the unexpected entry into the fray of Chatib Basri, Indonesia’s Finance Minister, in Surabaya last year, when he chided local industrialists that they would for ever be uncompetitive and vulnerable to outside competitors as long as they paid over the odds for services – in particular telecoms, financial services and logistics costs. Chatib Basri is a powerful and influential ally in an economy that has traditionally been highly suspicious about opening up its services economy.
 
Similarly important was the decision by China mid-last year to begin talking openly about the need to drive greater efficiency and competitiveness through their traditionally weak services economy. As chair of APE C this year, they have made sure to bring services to the centre of most discussions. So over the past 10 days in Ningbo, our ABAC messages about the need to prioritise services liberalization has found resonance just about everywhere. Very gratifying. I have been able to report on our 2014 Services Action Plan to three separate working groups – all of them with substantial influence : the Group on Services, the Economic Committee and the committee that focuses on “ECOTECH” – economics and technology capacity building.
 
To be able to do this alongside services presentations from APEC’s own Policy Support Unit, and Ed Pedrosa at PECC has brought a particular convergence in our messages.
 
We have also been able to add impetus through two excellent presentations from the Marshall School team, who flew to Ningbo specially to present the conclusions of their 2013 study of impediments to foreign investment in the region.
 
The result has not simply been that we have been able to get services front of mind throughout the meetings, but that we have also attracted interest, and won support for the key elements of our 2014 action plan – in particular the big study aimed at discovering in detail the value of services in manufacturing value chains, and the Policy Dialogue on Services with Senior Officials. I am sure also that the 2014 Marshall School team will discover enhanced access when they fan out across Asia in May to conduct the interviews that give flesh and substance to their study on Impediments to Investment in Services.
 
Highly complimentary to our own studies, a number of fascinating projects have been discussed and may be undertaken by APEC in the months ahead. One is to be led by Japan on the services that sit in manufacturing supply chains, and one led by Australia on competitive services markets supporting global value chains. At last, gratifyingly, we seem to be making some significant progress.[ Back ]