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Bangkok Declaration on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific

27.03.14

We, the Ministers and representatives of members and associate members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) attending the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration, held in Bangkok from 17 to 20 December 2013,

Emphasizing the need to sustain the region’s inclusive and sustainable development to continue reducing the number of poor from its current 743 million living on less than $1.25 a day and 1.64 billion living on less that $2 a day and to close the development gaps across countries,[1]

Reaffirming ESCAP’s unique role as the most representative body for the Asian and Pacific region and its comprehensive mandate as the main economic and social development centre of the United Nations system for the Asian and the Pacific region,

Recalling the First Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, which was held in Manila in 1963 under the auspices of the Commission and led to the establishment of the Asian Development Bank,

Also recalling important contributions of the Commission to regional economic integration and cooperation, as highlighted in resolution 68/10, and noting other important regional economic cooperation and integration initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region,

Further recalling that the 68th Commission Session in its resolution 68/10 requested the Executive Secretary to support the convening of the First Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Integration in 2013, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the first Ministerial Conference on Asia Economic Cooperation and to review the theme study for the sixty-eighth session of the Commission, entitled Growing Together: Economic Integration for an Inclusive and Sustainable Asia-Pacific Century;

Recalling resolution 69/10 on promoting regional information and communications technology connectivity and building knowledge-networked societies in Asia and the Pacific,

Further recalling United Nations General Assembly resolutions A/RES/64/186 and A/RES/67/194 on Building Connectivity through the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway and A/RES/67/298 on Developing Cooperation for better connectivity and telecommunications transit routes in the Trans-Eurasian region,

Recognizing also that, given the vast landmass, oceans and diversity of the Asian and Pacific region, land-based and sea-based fiber-optic cable networks and satellites play a critical role in developing a seamless regional information space, as various configurations and models of information and communications technology infrastructure deployment are viable,

Recognizing that in the context of economic uncertainties after the global financial and economic crisis and with the rising economic prominence of the Asia-Pacific region in the world economy, the promotion of intraregional trade within Asia and the Pacific can provide enormous opportunities to support economic growth and employment creation in the region,

Reaffirming the imperatives of sustainable development, reducing poverty and inequalities, increasing the resilience of our economies to natural and economic disasters and the effects of climate change, sustainable management of natural resources, enhancing food and energy security, closing the digital divide, reducing development gaps across countries to enhance social cohesion,

Emphasizing that fostering trade, investment, economic and development cooperation among countries in Asia and the Pacific can create opportunities not only for supporting economic growth but also for achieving wider developmental objectives,

Noting that improving seamless connectivity, including land, river, sea and air transport, energy and ICT infrastructure, as well as trade facilitation, is critical to boost trade, investment and movement of people between countries,

Emphasizing the need to substantially enhance the degree of connectivity in the region, including through investments in physical transport, energy and information and communications technology infrastructure, and through improvements in trade and transport facilitation,

Recalling the Commission resolution 69/6 on implementation of the Tehran Declaration to promote public-private partnerships in infrastructure development in Asia and the Pacific for sustainable development,

Further emphasizing the need to develop existing, evolving and innovative national, regional and global partnerships to help members and associate members address the challenges and seize opportunities provided by growing populations, the demographic dividend, internal and international migration, and urbanization,

Also noting the urgent need to increase the availability of, and access to, financing for regional infrastructure projects, especially those that link the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States with each other and with other economies in Asia and the Pacific, including through facilitating transit transportation to the seaports,

Noting with satisfaction the adoption of the Suva Declaration on Improving Maritime and Related services in the Pacific, which aims to improve the economic feasibility of the provision of regular and predictable inter-island shipping services in the Pacific region,

Emphasizing that cooperation among countries in the region is critical to increase resilience to address vulnerabilities and risks of natural disasters, food and energy insecurity, scarcity of water resources, and unsustainable use of natural resources including of the oceans, and the effects of climate change in order to pursue a sustainable development path,

Emphasizing the need to address the growing gap in broadband connectivity between developed and developing countries, so that affordable access to high speed networks is available to all,

Noting that the Zero Hunger Challenge, which was launched globally by the Secretary General of the United Nations in Brazil in June 2012 and regionally by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations on the occasion of ESCAP’s 69th Commission Session, could provide a useful framework for regional cooperation in the area of food security,

Recognizing the availability of financial resources within Asia and the Pacific, the need for facilitating their broader flow, and the positive role of financial cooperation in enhancing economic resilience and closing infrastructure gaps in the region, exploring the possibilities of widening the scope of existing arrangements and establishing relevant mechanisms such as a regional infrastructure investment bank

Acknowledging the valuable role of regional groupings and organizations such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Customs Union and Common Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, East Asia Summit (EAS), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Micronesian Trade Committee (MTC), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the area of regional and sub-regional economic cooperation and integration,

Taking note of the visions for a broader Asia and the Pacific community,

Having reviewed the theme study for the sixty-eighth session of the Commission, entitled Growing Together: Economic Integration for an Inclusive and Sustainable Asia-Pacific Century,

1.         Resolve to work together to pursue enhanced regional economic cooperation and integration in Asia and the Pacific through the following four goals as an important step towards a broad long-term vision of an economic community of Asia and the Pacific:

 (a)      Moving towards the formation of an integrated market in Asia and the Pacific.

(b)       The development of seamless connectivity across the region, including transport, energy and ICT through the full realization of key regional initiatives;

(c)       Enhancing financial cooperation, inter alia, for closing infrastructure gaps across countries in the region and exploring the possibility of providing liquidity support;

 (d)      Increasing economic and technical cooperation to address shared vulnerabilities and risks;

2.         Agree to pursue the agenda for such cooperation as outlined in the Annex of this Declaration as an important step towards a broad long-term vision for an economic community of Asia and the Pacific;

3.         Decide to set up four sectoral expert working groups comprising high-level experts from the region to take stock of current regional efforts on economic cooperation and integration, identify gaps, and recommend concrete actions to make progress in achieving each of the four goals stipulated above;

4.         Agree to assist countries with special needs, specially least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States, benefit from opportunities arising from regional economic cooperation and integration, including, as appropriate, through support to enhance their capacities,

5.         Invite members and associate members of ESCAP, donor countries, multilateral financing institutions, relevant agencies and organizations of the United Nations system, other intergovernmental and regional organizations, relevant non-governmental organizations, international think tanks and the private sector to provide financial and technical support for the implementation of the regional economic cooperation and integration agenda;

6.         Request the Executive Secretary:

(a)       To accord high priority to the regional economic cooperation and integration agenda, including through ESCAP subregional offices within their respective mandates, and to set up and support the work of the four sectoral expert working groups;

(b)       To ensure effective coordination with other concerned United Nations and multilateral agencies including relevant subregional technical organizations, in supporting the implementation of the regional economic cooperation and integration agenda;

 (c) To convene the Second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration in December 2015 to review the progress on the agenda of regional economic integration outlined in the Annex, discuss the reports of the four sectoral expert working groups, and decide on follow up actions.

 

 


 

Annex

 

Suggested

AGENDA FOR regional economic COOPERATION AND integration IN asia and the pacific

 

 

  1. The agenda for regional economic cooperation and integration aims to deepen and broaden economic cooperation and integration in Asia and the Pacific and to move towards the formation of an economic community of Asia and the Pacific as a long-term goal.

 

  1. Recognising the important progress achieved by regional groupings and organizations to integrate their subregions, the agenda is designed to support their efforts and further strengthen their contribution as building blocks of a broader regional initiative.  For this purpose, ESCAP’s Subregional Offices could provide support to and liaise with the subregional groupings in their respective subregions within their respective mandates.

 

3.         In order to promote and facilitate opportunities for mutual learning and coordination between the regional groupings and organizations, including in their sectoral cooperation initiatives, ESCAP could facilitate consultations of such groupings and organizations at the annual sessions of the Commission to discuss progress in economic cooperation and integration in the ESCAP subregions, share best practices, and consider ways to enhance economic cooperation and integration between the subregions.

 

4.         It is important to recognize that for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States, due to their geographical limitations, absence of relevant trade infrastructure and small market sizes, reduces the impacts of regional cooperation and integration initiatives that would enhance trade, market development and improve economic growth. Therefore, there is a need for specific policies for productive capacity building, including infrastructure development, broadening the economic base, access to finance and to assist to overcome risks and shocks of entering into regional trade blocks to broaden their access to regional trade and connectivity.

 

 

5.         The Second Ministerial Conference on Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration to be held in December 2015 will take stock of the progress made on the agenda of cooperation and integration agreed at the First Ministerial Conference and consider the recommendations of the sectoral expert working groups established by it.

 

Moving towards the formation of an integrated market in Asia and the Pacific 

5.         In order to exploit complementarities between the subregions, it is critical to move towards an integrated market of the Asia and the Pacific economies. A designated sectoral expert working group will explore the possible options for building an integrated market of the Asia and the Pacific region in an inclusive and equitable manner.[2]

 

            6.         Recognizing the importance of trade for growth and development, members and associate members will strive to foster trade facilitation, bring down trade barriers through cooperation on liberalization, and resist and refrain from protectionism.

 

7.         In order to promote investment between the countries of Asia and the Pacific region, members and associate members may work towards exploring the possibility of a balanced and development-friendly multilateral agreement on avoidance of double taxation to complement existing multiple bilateral agreements.

 

8.         It is important to recognize the importance of migration flows for tackling structural labour demand and supply mismatches across countries and the critical developmental role that remittances play. In that context, it is important to enhance regional consultations to address the protection of rights of legal migrant workers, in accordance with internationally agreed principles, as appropriate, and norms in the governance of migration and respective countries’ applicable laws, regulations and policies.

 

9.         Intra-regional tourism, which has been growing in Asia and the Pacific as a consequence of the region’s progress in raising standards of living and reducing poverty, could help LDCs, LLDCs and small island developing states of the region spur their development. However, the development of the tourism sector depends crucially on the existence of efficient, regular and affordable air services connecting recipient and source countries. Regional cooperation in this area is particularly important to support these countries in promoting the development of their tourism sectors.  

 

 

The development of seamless connectivity in the region

 

10.       In order to strengthen seamless transport connectivity in the region it is essential, as appropriate, to implement the Ministerial Declaration on Transport Development in Asia and the Pacific, including the Regional Action Programme on Transport Development in Asia and the Pacific, Phase II (2012-2016) and the Regional Strategic Framework for the Facilitation of International Road Transport, the Ministerial Declaration on Transport as a Key to Sustainable Development and Regional Integration, 2013, and the Suva Declaration on Improving Maritime Transport and Related Services in the Pacific.  It is also important for ESCAP member States which have not already done so to consider becoming parties to the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network, the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network, and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports.

 

11.       In view of the critical importance of the connectivity agenda, a designated sectoral expert working group will take a closer look at cross-sectoral synergies between transport, energy and ICT infrastructure and makes recommendations.

 

12.       ESCAP’s Asian and Pacific Energy Forum (APEF) could address the need to develop energy connectivity by facilitating the evolution of an Asian Energy Highway, including oil and gas pipelines and grid connections, across borders to exploit demand-supply mismatches across countries and develop a regional energy market and the Pacific Regional Energy Data Repository for Sustainable Energy for All. In view of the importance of energy cooperation for the energy security of the region, APEF could consider means for implementing and reviewing mechanism for its recommendations. The Forum could also enhance cooperation among energy producing, transit and energy consuming countries and sustainable use of resources.

 

13.       Improved ICT connectivity and the reduction of the digital divide will require enhanced cooperation at the regional and subregional level. This includes entering into public-private partnerships, exploring new opportunities emerging from technological innovations and connectivity and supporting the development of the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway to provide seamless broadband connectivity and reduce the costs of such connectivity for all throughout Asia and the Pacific. Improved regional cooperation on ICT issues could also promote policies that maximise the economic and social benefits of improved ICT connectivity while mitigating the common challenges and threats raised by these new and continuously evolving technologies. 

 

Enhancing financial cooperation 

 

14.       It is important to recognize the huge potential for cooperation in finance to develop the region’s capital markets and a regional financial architecture to facilitate the mobilization of some of the region’s financial resources for meeting the region’s needs for liquidity support, trade finance and for closing the infrastructure gaps. A designated sectoral expert working group could examine ways and means of exploiting the potential of financial cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, including considering options suggested in paragraph 5 of ESCAP resolution 69/6 on the implementation of the Tehran Declaration to promote public-private partnership in infrastructure development in Asia and the Pacific for sustainable development. 

 

Increasing economic cooperation to address shared vulnerabilities, risks and challenges 

 

15.       A designated sectoral expert working group could explore ways and means of regional cooperation for addressing shared vulnerabilities, risks and challenges including through the following measures.

 

16.       The establishment of an Asia and the Pacific agricultural research and innovation network could be considered. This should be a regional knowledge network aimed at addressing sustainable productivity increases and at encouraging responsible investment into sustainable small-scale farming and agro industries and rural development.

 

17.       Regional and subregional food banks such as the SAARC Food Bank and ASEAN Rice Reserve could be strengthened. It is important to share information on food stocks across countries and to facilitate food trade through information sharing related to sanitary and phyto-sanitary and other food safety standards, agricultural good practices and trading opportunities.

 

17. The United Nations Zero Hunger Challenge could provide a guideline for regional cooperation in the area of food security. Regional cooperation is particularly necessary to assist countries with special needs such as least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.  

18.       While increased connectivity facilitates cross-border flows of trade and investment, it also increases the risks of trans-boundary shocks which could have serious impacts on social, economic and environmental infrastructure and processes across countries of the region and could lead to systemic failures. In that context, it is important to strengthen the role of relevant mechanisms for regional cooperation and coordination and in facilitating the sharing of best practices across the subregions.

 

19.       The role of regional cooperation in ICT and space technologies for the monitoring of hazards and the assessment of vulnerabilities, exposures and risks should be recognized. Regional cooperation, such as through ESCAP’s Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development, could also help ESCAP member States to mainstream disaster risk reduction into their development planning, to formulate disaster-resilient recovery and reconstruction measures and to take into account disaster risks in their land use planning.

 

20.       The pooling of space based information and ground support as well as communication systems for monitoring and early warning at the regional level should be considered in order to address multiple hazards and cut across geographical boundaries through the sharing of data, information and best practices between national and subregional early warning systems. In that context, it is important to strengthen the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES).  

 

21.       In view of the scarcity of natural resources becoming a constraint for growth for the Asian and the Pacific economies, there is need for appropriate and efficient pooling of resources and coordination at the regional and subregional levels to foster research and development on conservation of natural resources including of the oceans and energy, for climate change adaptation and mitigation and for developing environmentally friendly technologies up to the precompetitive stage. This could be achieved through greater coordination between national innovation organizations of the Asian and the Pacific countries and through the establishment of regional innovation centres for different core technologies. The role of ESCAP regional institutes such as APCTT, APCICT, CSAM and CAPSA needs to be recognized in this respect.

 

22.       The members and associate members of ESCAP that are highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change, such as the contamination of fresh water tables by rising sea levels and the increased frequency and severity of cyclones, melting of snow caps resulting in flash floods and outburst of glacier lakes, are exposed to significant damages to their physical infrastructure and productive capacity. Such damages strain government resources and create serious development challenges. Regional cooperation to assist the countries build resilience to the impacts of climate change is highly desirable.



[1] ESCAP/ADB/UNDP (2013). Asia-Pacific Aspirations: Perspectives for a Post-2015 Development Agenda, Asia-Pacific Regional MDGs Report 2012/13, Bangkok.

[2] Equitable refers to the principle of special and differential treatment in favour of weaker economies, as included in the GATT.

 

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