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Asia-Pacific: Call for integrated liberalization policies to achieve sustainable development in the region

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Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Week closed at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) headquarters in Bangkok today, with the adoption of a set of concrete policy recommendations aimed at improving regional cooperation, amidst a climate of global economic uncertainties.

Policymakers from over 30 countries and representatives of regional bodies underlined that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved through protectionist policies. Instead, the region and the global economy need targeted trade and investment liberalization policies that are more inclusive and mindful of the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

During the ESCAP Trade and Investment Committee, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar highlighted that for trade and investment to be fully used as means of implementation for the SDGs, effective national governance is needed to achieve synergies between trade, investment, facilitation and complementary policies, including those affecting social and environmental outcomes.

“ESCAP’s analytical work offers a strong case for expanding multilateral and regional cooperation to promote trade and investment liberalisation, but doing so with due regard to ensuring policies and investments minimise the social and environmental risks.”

In his inaugural address to the Committee, H.E. Mr. Winichai Chaemchaeng, Vice Minister of Commerce of Thailand added, “ESCAP could have a vital role to play when it comes to knowledge sharing that would support governments’ initiatives on human resource development and training, as well as policy support.”

Key recommendations of the Committee included better integrating the social and environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in trade and investment agreements, and reducing intra-regional trade costs through implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific. The Committee also called for increased regional capacity building for evidence-based policymaking through the Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT). The Committee acknowledged that the private sector has the potential to enable inclusive growth and called for ESCAP to enhance its engagement with the business community.

The Committee was one of the main events held during the Fifth Trade and Investment Week convened by ESCAP and partners from 30 October to 3 November. The week featured five side events including a high-level dialogue on safeguarding multilateral trading systems for sustainable development, in preparation for the WTO Ministerial Conference later this year. Youth and the digital economy will define the future of the trade and investment landscape in the Asia-Pacific, so for the first time, the week also provided a platform for young entrepreneurs to share their views on trade and investment policies for sustainable development.

Discussions at the Committee were informed by findings in the ESCAP Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017 launched on 30 October. The report sent a strong message that trade and investment are powerful engines for growth and sustainable development but ‘business as usual’ policies are not sufficient to address the three dimensions of sustainable development effectively. The report also emphasized that cutting trade costs and deepening regional cooperation are key to ensuring the benefits of trade and investment can be shared across the region.

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IEA and African Union sign strategic partnership on sustainable energy for all goals

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Dr Abou Zeid and Dr Birol signing the MoU between the African Union and the IEA in Paris, with H. E. Mr Ali Suleyman Mohammed, Ethiopian Ambassador to France (background, left), and H.E. Noé van Hulst, Ambassador of The Netherlands at the OECD and Chairman of the IEA Governing Board (Photograph: Michael Dean/IEA).

The International Energy Agency and the African Union have agreed to have a strategic partnership toward a more secure, sustainable and clean energy future for countries across the African continent.

The joint commitment was formalised through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed today in Paris by Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, and H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism.

Before the official signature, Dr Abou-Zeid participated in Big Ideas, the IEA’s high-level distinguished speaker series. Marking World Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the foundation of the African Union, Dr Abou-Zeid addressed the challenges of energy poverty and improving energy access in Africa.

The hour-long session, which was broadcast live on the IEA website, was attended by more than 140 people, including a large number of Ambassadors, senior delegates and representatives from member countries of both the IEA Family and the African Union. The event was followed by a lunch hosted by Ambassador Alessandro Busacca, the Permanent Representative of Italy to the International Organizations in Paris, and Ambassador Massimo Gaiani, the Director General for Global Issues and for Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more than two decades, the IEA has been at the forefront of international efforts to deliver universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy. Despite widespread global progress, efforts to expand access to electricity and clean cooking facilities do not always keep pace with population growth, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region of the world with the most entrenched energy access challenges.

“There is a saying in Africa – if you want to go fast, you go alone; if you want to go far, you go together,” said Dr Abou-Zeid. “It is the reason we decided to enter into a strategic partnership with the IEA. The signing of this MOU marks a milestone for the AUC and IEA. It will strengthen our ability to deliver on our respective mandates in a mutually enriching way.”

The MoU provides a general framework for cooperation on activities and projects that advance shared interests in areas of energy security, energy statistics, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable economic development.

It reflects the IEA’s strong commitment to global engagement on energy access and sustainable development, and to working closely with emerging economies to find solutions to energy and environmental challenges.

“The agreement is a cornerstone of joint efforts to work toward a more secure, sustainable and clean energy future for Africa,” said Dr Birol. “The timing of our ceremony here today could not be more appropriate as across the world we celebrate this 55th anniversary of Africa Day.”

Eradicating energy poverty is a priority for the IEA and the agreement will play a vital role in stepping up efforts to achieve secure and sustainable energy for all. Find out more about the IEA’s work supporting the Sustainable Development Goal 7 on energy access here.

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IRENA and Mission Innovation to Work Together on Renewable Energy Innovation

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At the 3rd Mission Innovation Ministerial, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Mission Innovation, an initiative of 22 countries and the European Commission working to reinvigorate and accelerate clean energy innovation, agreed to work together to scale-up the deployment of renewable energy technologies through knowledge sharing on innovation data, trends and priorities. Mr. Ibrahim Baylan, Minister for Policy Coordination and Energy in Sweden, on behalf of Mission Innovation, and Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director General of IRENA, signed today a letter of intent to that effect.

“Innovation is at the heart of the global energy transformation, not only in terms of technological advancements but also in policy, finance and business.” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

“By collaborating with Mission Innovation, we can bring together the knowledge, data, convening power and experiences of the two organisations to create innovative approaches to develop the energy system of the future,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Mission Innovation, Mr. Ibrahim Baylan said: “There is an urgent need to accelerate clean energy innovation. The member nations can do this better and faster with the global collaboration of the Mission Innovation. Likewise, the Mission Innovation itself stands stronger when collaborating with other international organizations in the clean energy field.

“I am therefore very pleased to announce that we have signed letter of intent for collaboration between the Mission Innovation and the International Renewable Energy Agency,” continued Minister Baylan, “and I am confident that this cooperation will benefit both our organisations.”

IRENA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency and renewable energy can achieve 90 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2050 to decarbonise the energy sector in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. However, to meet these goals the speed of renewable energy deployment must increase by at least a factor of six.

Fostering system wide innovation will be key to scaling up the share of renewables in the global energy system, based on IRENA’s analysis. While technology innovation is central to progress, identifying new policy, market and business approaches is equally necessary.

Key areas for collaboration include:

  • Tracking Innovation Progress:Working together in order to improve the quality of data and insights on progress in renewables and energy system technologies and better inform high-level decision-making processes related to clean-energy innovation.
  • Strengthening cross-border collaboration on innovation: Identifying research priorities to support RD&D in key technology areas, monitoring technological evolution, and identifying relevant innovation gaps.
  • Sharing insights and knowledge on innovation policy priorities and strategies: Leveraging IRENA’s data, tools and reports to inform Mission Innovation activities and priority areas.

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An economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific

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On the 23 May, in the run-up to SPIEF, a roundtable held jointly between the Roscongress Foundation and St. Petersburg State University of Economics took place, entitled ‘Building a Common Economic Space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: Current Issues and Ways to Overcome Them’.

The experts discussed opportunities related to integration, investment, infrastructure, and innovation, alongside new forms of collaboration for those shaping the economic region of Greater Eurasia. In addition, they brainstormed a joint vision as to how the shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific will develop in the future.

The welcome address was given by Igor Maksimtsev, rector of St. Petersburg State University of Economics. Moderating the session was Sofia Rekord, head of the world economy and international economic relations department of the same institution.

The participants observed that the geo-economic potential of Greater Eurasia – stretching from one ocean to another – is enormous, and needs to be unlocked to a greater extent, regardless of the unpredictability of the global economic environment and political climate. They also laid out the main aim behind the formation of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific: to facilitate comprehensive interaction and cooperation between countries across the Eurasian continent through stepping up dialogue between all stakeholders. These include government representatives, business figures, the expert community, and research organizations tackling a wide range of issues related to economics, politics, and culture. This should result in continuous development for all parties, and prudent solutions to new challenges.

Other areas of focus included promising forms of economic collaboration in Greater Eurasia: opportunities for dialogue between the EAEU, SCO, ASEAN, and EU; the implementation of the EAEU’s shared digital agenda; prospects for transport, logistics and energy projects; bolstering regional development institutions when unlocking the investment potential of the EAEU; and opportunities to foster greater foresight with regards the future development of a shared economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Participants from the expert community included Mikhail Voronin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Dyatlov, professor of the department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Sergei Karaganov, dean of the world economy and international politics faculty of the Higher School of Economics National Research University and honorary chair of the presidium of the International and Defence Policy Council; Dmitry Miropolsky, head of department of general economic theory and the history of economic thought of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vadim Panin, associate professor of the world economy and international economic relations department of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Vladimir Salamatov, director general of the International Trade and Integration Research Centre; Tatyana Urzhumtseva, director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Centre of the St. Petersburg State University of Economics; Alexander Khodachek, president of the Higher School of Economics National Research University in St. Petersburg; and Slava Khodko, general director of the North-West Development and Investment Promotion Agency.

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