Closing trade, development gaps can unleash Asia’s economic potential – UN official

21 July 2011

Overcoming key development and trade gaps can unleash the potential of Asia and the Pacific to be leader in the global economy, the top United Nations official in the region said today.

“Changes taking place in the world economy are likely to catapult the Asia-Pacific region as the centre of gravity of the world economy with China, India and Indonesia emerging as the growth poles for not only the region, but also the entire world,” said the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer.

In her keynote address to the Indonesia International Conference 2011 in Jakarta, Ms. Heyzer said that region must address major challenges before it can realize its economic potential and reclaim “the pre-eminent position it had for most of human history.”

A major concern is the sharp rise in global food and energy prices which, according to ESCAP estimates, could delay and reverse progress in poverty reduction in many countries in the region.

The most basic challenge facing Asia-Pacific economies, said Ms. Heyzer, is to reduce their traditional reliance on export markets in the slowing developed economies by deepening intra-regional trade and investment.

The Executive Secretary has previously stated that the economic crisis has exposed the limitations of a ‘manufactured in Asia – consumed in the West’ model for economic growth, stressing that there are enormous opportunities to promote trade and investment within East Asia.

“ESCAP analysis shows that consumption has failed to keep pace with growth in East Asian countries while investment has failed to keep up in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries, including Indonesia.”

She highlighted the potential for increasing trade among Asia-Pacific countries which has grown much faster than the region’s trade with the rest of the world. Realizing this potential, she added, will require improving physical and trade connectivity within the region by developing transport links and harmonizing international business procedures.

These challenges provide the region with a “historic opportunity to rebalance its economic structure in favour of itself to sustain its dynamism with strengthened connectivity and balanced regional development, and to make the 21st century a truly Asia-Pacific century,” she said.

The Indonesia International Conference 2011 brought together leading thinkers, Governments, multilateral agencies, international trade bodies and civil society representatives to analyze critical global political, economic and social issues.


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