VLADIVOSTOK, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- Economic leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) members on Sunday issued here a joint declaration that outlines future development of the region.
Under the theme of "Integrate to Grow, Innovate to Prosper," the leaders agreed that robust international trade, investment and economic integration are key drivers of strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
Against the backdrop that the global economy has continued to face a number of challenges and is subject to downside risks, the leaders said they welcome European leaders' commitment to taking all necessary measures to safeguard the integrity and stability of the euro area.
"We remain committed to reducing imbalances by strengthening deficit economies' public finances with sound and sustainable policies that take into account evolving economic conditions and, in economies with large current account surpluses, by strengthening domestic demand and moving toward greater exchange rate flexibility," said the declaration.
The leaders agreed to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability while recognizing the need to support recovery within the available fiscal scope. They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening a multilateral trading system, vowing to push forward the Doha Round of global trade talks.
Amid rising risk of protectionism and continuing uncertainties in the global economy, the leaders pledged to refrain through the end of 2015 from raising new barriers to trade and investment, and not to impose new export restrictions or implement WTO-inconsistent measures in all areas.
On the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA), the leaders said they welcome the ongoing work to expand the product coverage and membership of the ITA.
With regard to regional integration, the leaders recognized that Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is a major instrument to further APEC's regional economic integration agenda.
"Taking note of various regional undertakings that could be developed and built upon as a way towards an eventual FTAAP, we direct ministers to continue to facilitate APEC' s role as an incubator of a FTAAP and to explore ways forward towards its realization by providing leadership and intellectual input into the process of its development," the leaders said.
The leaders also reached consensus on the development of green growth, in a bid to seek practical, trade-enhancing solutions to global environmental challenges.
"We welcome and endorse the APEC List of Environmental Goods that directly and positively contribute to our green growth and sustainable development objectives. We reaffirm our commitment to reduce our applied tariff rates to five percent or less on these environmental goods by the end of 2015, taking into account economies' economic circumstances without prejudice to their positions in the WTO," the declaration said.
In supporting sustainable growth, the leaders agreed that promoting green growth should not be used as an excuse to introduce protectionist measures.
"We are committed to ensuring that our actions to protect the environment are least trade restrictive and consistent with our international trade obligations," the declaration stressed.
On the information and communication technologies (ICT), the leaders emphasized the necessity of multi-stakeholder cooperation to expand and strengthen the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure and to build confidence and security in the use of ICT.
They called for cooperation of member economies to improve disaster preparedness, response and recovery through the development of ICTs and promotion of appropriate systems and technologies.
Also, the leaders stressed the need for joint actions to avoid negative impact on the world's economy from reduction of carbon emissions.
On food security, the leaders recognized the growing challenges and called for concerted efforts.
"Given the growing world population, reducing the number of undernourished people by raising food production, improving the individuals' or households' economic access to food and improving the efficiency and openness of food markets will require more concerted effort by and cooperation among all APEC economies," the declaration stressed.
The leaders demonstrated their commitment by agreeing to increase sustainable agricultural production and productivity, develop food markets, enhance food security, improve access to food for vulnerable groups and raise farmers' welfare.
"We appreciate the positive role of foreign direct investment in increasing agricultural production," added the declaration.
The leaders agreed that a more open, stable, predictable rule-based and transparent agricultural trading system would have a crucial role to play in enhancing food security.
"Recognizing that bans and other restrictions on the export of food may cause price volatility, especially for economies that rely on imports of staple products, we reiterate our pledge against protectionism," declared the leaders.
"We are determined to ensure fair and open markets, reduce price volatility, and establish greater regional and global food security and confirm our commitment to develop food markets infrastructure, reduce post-harvest losses along the entire food supply chain," they said.
Highlighting the importance of establishing reliable supply chains, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieve a 10-percent improvement in supply-chain performance by 2015 in the Asia-Pacific region.
The proposed performance improvement includes reduction of time, cost, uncertainty of moving goods and services through the entire region.
"We welcome the adoption of a more systematic approach to addressing existing chokepoints in supply chains through targeted capacity-building and concrete steps toward making supply chains more reliable, resilient, safe, efficient, transparent, diversified and intelligent," the declaration said.
Pinpointing terrorism in the declaration as a "serious threat" to economic growth, security, stability and supply chain reliability within their region, the leaders reaffirmed their commitments to implement the APEC Consolidated Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy.
They voiced support to deeper cooperation and capacity building across the Strategy's priority area of secure trade, travel, finance and infrastructure to make regional commerce more secure, efficient and resilient.
Also, they pointed to natural and man-made disasters as threats to regional economic development, calling for preventive measures, emergency preparedness, disaster resiliency and fostering of scientific and technical cooperation among the member economies.
On innovation issues, the leaders agreed to join hands to foster innovative growth, which in turn will facilitate sustainable development of the region as a whole.
They agreed to take important steps to facilitate development of effective, non-discriminatory and market-driven innovation policies, innovation cooperation and innovation networking.
APEC has already upgraded its Industrial Science and Technology Working Group into a Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), so as to bring into full play such actors as governments, businesses and academia from the Asia-Pacific region.
The leaders spoke highly of a joint proposal by Indonesia and New Zealand to throw a meeting for APEC chief science advisors next year to further the region's innovation-oriented decision-making mechanism.
They also pointed to the importance small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) have in innovation-driven growth.
SMMEs are "a significant driver of development and innovation in the Asia-Pacific region that will improve the quality of economic integration and competitiveness of our economies," said the joint statement.
"We note the importance to our innovation goals of assisting SMMEs at an early stage, and expanding opportunities for youth and women," added the statement.
Education was singled out as an essential driver of innovative growth in the region, and APEC leaders and representatives expressed their support for efforts to enhance the mobility of students, researchers and education providers through the development of higher education cooperation.
APEC, a premier economic forum in the Asia-Pacific region, was established in 1989. It has grown to encompass 21 members spanning four continents, and now accounts for about 40 percent of the world's population, 57 percent of the global GDP and 48 percent of the world trade.