Washington — Preliminary meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum concluded March 12, setting an ambitious agenda for enhanced partnership in 2011.
APEC’s 21 member economies convened for the first Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1) at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington February 27. The two-week gathering offered seminars covering a variety of economic concerns, and addresses from meeting chairman Michael Froman, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The APEC forum is the premier economic organization in the Asia-Pacific region. Established in 1989 by 12 economies, including the United States, APEC fosters growth and prosperity by facilitating economic cooperation and expanding trade and investment throughout the region.
Besides the United States, APEC members include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Vietnam. The United States is hosting APEC in 2011; it last hosted the economic forum in 1993.
Secretary Clinton spoke to APEC senior officials March 9 about opportunities for members to work together and succeed together. She said the United States will help lead the Asia-Pacific region to a “spirit of true partnership” and will use its year as host of the APEC summit to “push this organization to do more to deliver useful, tangible results.”
Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, recapped APEC 2011 goals in a press conference March 14. He said that, in an effort to build a “seamless regional economy,” the United States will focus on specific initiatives aimed at strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade, promoting green growth, and increasing regulatory cooperation and convergence.
SOM1 went “a long way” toward making APEC 2011 a “successful and productive year,” Froman said.
Additional APEC meetings are scheduled for Big Sky, Montana, in May and San Francisco in September. The culminating APEC Economic Leaders meeting is planned for Honolulu in November.
A 21ST CENTURY TRADE AGREEMENT
A major goal of APEC 2011 is to “focus this year on next-generation trade and investment issues such as supply chain, performance, innovation, and trade and technology, and what the 21st century trade agreements in the region might look like,” Froman said.
This goal complements the objectives of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), created in 2006 by Singapore, New Zealand and Chile. The TPP aims to promote regionwide economic cooperation. Officials from the nine current TPP member economies — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States — aim to revise and refine the TPP to reflect modern standards, which include ensuring worker rights and protecting the environment.
Several seminars at SOM1 explored what 21st century trade standards might mean in practice, addressing nontariff trade barriers in environmental goods and services, easing exchange of technologies of vehicles with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and allowing more access and collaboration to emerging green innovations, including smart-grid technology.
To accomplish these goals, the United States is determined to push APEC to achieve even more meaningful results. “We are always looking for opportunities to reform, upgrade and revitalize international institutions. And APEC is one of those where we are looking for — from the agenda perspective, we’re looking for ways of making it as concrete as possible,” Froman said.
APEC members account for 53 percent of the global gross domestic product, buy 58 percent of U.S. exported goods, and represent a market of 2.7 billion consumers. Through cooperation, APEC economies have made improvements in balancing growth and making it more inclusive, encouraging multilateral trading and ensuring that exchanged products are safer for consumers and for the planet.
In a March 2010 interview, Kurt Tong, the State Department’s senior official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, explained that APEC promotes long-term, sustainable growth throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region.
“APEC has a real capability to have the economies of the region learning from each other and studying each other’s best practices to figure out how they can do a better job of adjusting to economic change in ways that workers and small or medium enterprises keep up with that change,” he said.
The forum aims to maintain economic strength through partnership, working closely with the private sector and other interested parties to ensure that activities reflect the region’s economic needs.