Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 7

February 03, 2013

Saturday had our resources divided hard between the Economic Committee, where we were summarizing the ABAC1 meeting in Manila, and the Services Group, where I was tasked to present on ABAC’s services agenda. Needlesstosay, our services agenda aligns extremely well with that of the Group on Services, and there seems to be strong support for us preparing a Symposium or joint workshop at GOS2 in Surubaya in April on services – we need to move speedily to define the exact theme.

Fascinatingly, in a discussion on the “Really Good Friends of Services” initiative in progress in Geneva aimed at making progress on services liberalization, GOS Chair Ibu Sondang was keen to clarify that her own Indonesian Government was not participating first because they were heavily engaged in completing the ASEAN Framework Arrangement on Services (AFAS), which has recently finished its 8th round of discussions. She also was keen to emphasise that her own country’s regulators were still resistant to regulatory liberalization that gave foreign companies better access to the Indonesian market, claiming a need to protect Indonesia’s own small companies. I responded that we recognized these sensitivities but that our experience showed that complex regulation at home simply raised costs for local companies, making it difficult – if not impossible – to be competitive outside home markets. In short, we need to provide more data emphasizing this point to help sympathetic officials like Sondang to fight her corner in government discussions on liberalization. I am sure the same goes on in many economies across the region.

But the real “blockbuster” of the meeting was a PECC presentation on why services trade needs to be opened up. The presentation was huge, and dense with data, and was no doubt challenging for officials to take in at one bite, but I am certain the presentation will be taken away and digested thoroughly.

Like us in ABAC, PECC is excited about the next trade database released two weeks ago by the OECD-WTO team - which underlines how important it will be to get one of the research team for the work to come and present to APEC and ABAC at a future meeting on the story this database tells about the importance of breaking down the value chain to calculate trade flows more accurately, and the critical role of services as the lubricant to successful involvement in international trade.


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