- POSTED: 08 Oct 2013 16:27
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Speaking at a second retreat between APEC Leaders Retreat in Bali, Indonesia, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the next 20 years will see profound changes in the region.
NUSA DUA: Speaking at a second retreat between APEC Leaders Retreat in Bali, Indonesia, Mr Lee said the next 20 years will see profound changes in the region.
In Asia, for instance, Mr Lee said long-term prospects are good as a result of better education, growing middle class and hungry populations striving to get ahead.
And whatever the difficulties emerging markets face, their dynamism, talent and imagination will take them forward.
Meanwhile, Mr Lee noted that although political challenges are affecting America's ability to tackle structural fiscal problems, he is confident that as a dynamic economy, the US will recover.
However, medium-term risks remain in Latin America, even though the short-term outlook for the region has improved.
To thrive amidst these challenges, Mr Lee urged the 21 APEC member economies to enhance trade, especially in services.
He said the percentage of services exported within APEC is only a tenth of that of goods.
Mr Lee added that cutting costs in the trade in services by 10 per cent could grow GDP by US$100 billion, and create new opportunities especially for emerging markets, where strong services sectors can reduce their reliance on exports and foreign direct investments.
At the retreat on Tuesday, Mr Lee also urged continued progress towards the setting up of an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement -- a point which he had raised on several occasions during the APEC meetings in Bali.
In terms of strengthening connectivity, air travel is one area with tremendous potential.
He said APEC member economies should increase air connections and aim for an eventual "open skies" to realise this opportunity.
Open skies agreements liberalise rules for international aviation markets, allowing commercial carriers to provide more affordable and efficient air service.
Air travel in APEC is expected to triple by 2030 and the industry will employ 45 million workers and contribute US$3.2 trillion in GDP.
Mr Lee said other initiatives that could keep APEC relevant and strengthen the foundation for future success include a Regional Funds Passport to promote regional trade in financial products such as bonds, as well as APEC data privacy framework to meet the needs of the digital economy.
During the retreat, Mr Lee also commended Indonesia's APEC Framework on Connectivity which was endorsed by APEC leaders.
He thanked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his excellent chairmanship of APEC.
On Tuesday, Mr Lee also attended a meeting of the 12 participating countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.
He encouraged the leaders to redouble efforts to conclude trade talks which are targeted to be completed by year-end.
Mr Lee said that there is more work to be done in the areas of market access, state-owned enterprises, intellectual property rights and the environment. He added that Singapore is happy to host the next TPP meeting in December.
He said: "It is something which we have to work very hard to because it is the right arrangement to bring together all the important parts of the Asia-Pacific region and including Singapore.
"We also find certain issues difficult to deal and we are discussing how we can overcome these difficulties.
"Every country has some of them. The countries have to get together to get a good deal, but you will not get a perfect deal. Can we do it by the end of the year? I think we should try hard for that deadline."
He added: "Our negotiators have worked hard and tilled the ground for more than three years.
"It is important that our teams keep their spirits high, understand one another’s concerns and work together to devise creative solutions. I look forward to a good harvest, with win-win outcomes for all."
After the APEC leaders meeting, Mr Lee will head to Brunei to attend the 23rd ASEAN Summit which begins on October 9.
Mr Lee said Singapore and several other countries will address issues such as transboundary haze and pollution in Brunei.
Discussions have been ongoing since Singapore and Malaysia were shrouded in thick haze in June.
Mr Lee said that is one of the reasons why he had asked Singapore Minister of Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to attend the upcoming ASEAN meeting in Brunei as well.