ABAC outlines innovation priorities for 2016

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The challenges and opportunities that new and emerging technologies present for the economic welfare of the Asia Pacific region will be the focus of APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) for 2016. Domestic and regional economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region is the primary focus of ABAC which has just concluded its first meeting of 2016 in San Francisco.

“We have agreed one primary focus of ABAC’s work during the coming year will be to fully explore the opportunities and challenges presented by new and emerging technologies and to arrive at a concerted set of recommendations from the business community in the APEC region,” said Juan Raffo, ABAC 2016 chair.

ABAC is composed of prominent business leaders and senior officials from APEC economies who meet several times a year to develop recommendations on economic and policy collaboration within the 21-country region. These recommendations are presented to APEC leaders at the annual summit which this year will take place in Lima in November.

To get first-hand leading edge information on how technology can foster economic growth, ABAC members visited Facebook, Google, PayPal and Dolby during their meeting in Silicon Valley. The sessions culminated with an “Hour of Code” presented by Microsoft. The Hour of Code gave members a one-hour introduction to basic computer science skills. Skills development, especially STEM skills, is a stated priority of APEC member countries.

Another focus is the incorporation of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital economy. MSMEs account for 97% of enterprises and up to 90% of employment in individual APEC economies. ABAC is working on recommendations to ensure their full participation in the digital economy, addressing digital and physical infrastructure, leveraging e-commerce and assuring access to finance.

Upholding the rule of law is essential for economic growth and is another priority for ABAC in 2016. “We hope that the business community will be able to provide valuable insight to inform policy makers in their efforts to develop and enforce a more transparent, efficient and integrated Asia Pacific region”, said Mr. Raffo.

ABAC will focus a great part of its discussions on achieving the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). Mr. Raffo stated that conditions are right for APEC to further progress the FTAAP and expressed the hope that early ratification by member governments of the Trans Pacific Partnerships (TPP) will provide the impetus for region-wide integration.