The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
APEC member countries shown in green
|-||APEC Chair||Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong|
|-||Executive Director||Michael Tay|
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries (styled 'member economies') to cooperate on regional trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation. APEC's objective is to enhance economic growth and prosperity in the region and to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community. Members account for approximately 40% of the world's population, approximately 54% of world GDP and about 44% of world trade.
An annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, attended by the heads of government of all APEC members (with the exception of Chinese Taipei which is represented by a ministerial-level official). The location of the meeting rotates annually among the member economies, and a famous tradition involves the attending Leaders dressing in a national costume of the host member.
In January 1989, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke called for more effective economic cooperation across the Pacific Rim region. This led to the first meeting of APEC in the Australian capital Canberra in November, chaired by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans. Attended by political ministers from twelve countries, the meeting concluded with commitments for future annual meetings in Singapore and South Korea.
The initial proposal was opposed by countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which instead proposed the East Asia Economic Caucus which would exclude non-Asian countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The plan was opposed and strongly criticised by Japan and the United States.
The first APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting occurred in 1993 when US president Bill Clinton, after discussions with Australian prime minister Paul Keating, invited the heads of government from member economies to a summit on Blake Island. He believed it would help bring the stalled Uruguay Round of trade talks on track. At the meeting, some leaders called for continued reduction of barriers to trade and investment, envisioning a community in the Asia-Pacific region that might promote prosperity through cooperation. The APEC Secretariat, based in Singapore, was established to coordinate the activities of the organisation.
During the meeting in 1994 in Bogor, Indonesia, APEC Leaders adopted the Bogor Goals that aim for free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialised economies and by 2020 for developing economies. In 1995, APEC established a business advisory body named the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), composed of three business executives from each member economy.
APEC currently has 21 members, including most countries with a coastline on the Pacific Ocean. By convention, APEC uses the term member economy to refer to one of its members.
|Member economy||Date of accession|
|Republic of Korea||1989|
|Hong Kong, China||1991|
|People's Republic of China||1991|
|Papua New Guinea||1993|
India has requested membership in APEC, and received initial support from the United States, Japan and Australia. Officials have decided not to allow India to join for various reasons. However, the decision was made not to admit more members until 2010. Moreover, India does not border the Pacific which all members do. The Philippines trade negotiator was quoted as saying that there is concern that "Once the Indians come in, the (Asian) weighting would become heavier in this part of the world."
In addition to India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Laos, Bangladesh, Colombia, and Ecuador, are among a dozen countries seeking membership in APEC by 2008. Colombia applied for APEC's membership as early as in 1995, but its bid was halted as the organization stopped accepting new members from 1993 to 1996, and the moratorium was further prolonged to 2007 due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Colombia and Ecuador hope to become members in 2010.  Guam has also been actively seeking a separate membership, citing the example of Hong Kong, but the request is opposed by the United States, which currently represents Guam. APEC is one of the few international level organizations that Taiwan is allowed to join, albeit under the name Chinese Taipei.
The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) was created by the APEC Economic Leaders in November 1995 with the aim of providing advice to the APEC Economic Leaders on ways to achieve the Bogor Goals and other specific business sector priorities, and to provide the business perspective on specific areas of cooperation.
Each economy nominates up to three members from the private sector to ABAC. These business leaders represent a wide range of industry sectors.
ABAC provides an annual report to APEC Economic Leaders containing recommendations to improve the business and investment environment in the Asia-Pacific region, and outlining business views about priority regional issues.
ABAC is also the only non-governmental organisation that is on the official agenda of the APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting.
Since its formation in 1989, APEC has held annual meetings with representatives from all member economies. The first four annual meetings were attended by ministerial-level officials. Beginning in 1993, the annual meetings are named APEC Economic Leaders' Meetings and are attended by the heads of government from all member economies except Taiwan, which is represented by a ministerial-level official. The annual Leaders' Meetings are not called summits. The location of the meeting is rotated annually among the members. As a tradition, the leaders attending the meeting participate in a photo op in which they dress in a costume that reflects the culture of the host member.
|Date||Host member||Location||Photo op fashion||Photo||Web site|
|1st||November 6–7, 1989||Australia||Canberra|
|2nd||July 29–31, 1990||Singapore||Singapore|
|3rd||November 12–14, 1991||Republic of Korea||Seoul|
|4th||September 10–11, 1992||Thailand||Bangkok|
|5th||November 19–20, 1993||United States||Seattle||Bombardier Jackets|
|6th||November 15, 1994||Indonesia||Bogor||Batik Shirts|
|7th||November 19, 1995||Japan||Osaka||Business Suits|
|8th||November 25, 1996||Philippines||Manila and Subic||Barong Shirts|||
|9th||November 24–25, 1997||Canada||Vancouver||Leather Jackets|||
|10th||November 17–18, 1998||Malaysia||Kuala Lumpur||Batik Shirts|||
|11th||September 12–13, 1999||New Zealand||Auckland||Sailing Jackets|||
|12th||November 15–16, 2000||Brunei Darussalam||Brunei||Kain Tenunan Shirts|||
|13th||October 20–21, 2001||People's Republic of China||Shanghai||Tangzhuang|
|14th||October 26–27, 2002||Mexico||Los Cabos||Guayabera Shirts (M); Huipíles (F)|
|15th||October 20–21, 2003||Thailand||Bangkok||Brocade Shirts (M); Brocade Shawls (F)|
|16th||November 20–21, 2004||Chile||Santiago||Chamantos|||
|17th||November 18–19, 2005||Republic of Korea||Busan||Hanboks|
|18th||November 18–19, 2006||Vietnam||Hanoi||Áo dài|||
|19th||September 8–9, 2007||Australia||Sydney||Drizabones and Akubra Hats|||
|20th||November 22–23, 2008||Peru||Lima||Ponchos|||
|21st||November 14–15, 2009||Singapore||Singapore||Peranakan-Inspired Designer Shirts|||
|23rd||November 2011||United States||Honolulu|
In 1997, the APEC meeting was held in Vancouver. Controversy arose after officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used pepper spray against protesters. The protesters objected to the presence of autocratic leaders such as Indonesian president Suharto.
At the 2001 Leaders' Meeting in Shanghai, APEC leaders pushed for a new round of trade negotiations and support for a program of trade capacity-building assistance, leading to the launch of the Doha Development Agenda a few weeks later. The meeting also endorsed the Shanghai Accord proposed by the United States, emphasising the implementation of open markets, structural reform, and capacity building. As part of the accord, the meeting committed to develop and implement APEC transparency standards, reduce trade transaction costs in the Asia-Pacific region by 5 percent over 5 years, and pursue trade liberalization policies relating to information technology goods and services.
In 2003, Jemaah Islamiah leader Riduan Isamuddin had planned to attack the APEC Leaders Meeting to be held in Bangkok in October. He was captured in the city of Ayutthaya, Thailand by Thai police on August 11, 2003, before he could finish planning the attack. Chile became the first South American nation to host the Leaders' Meeting in 2004. The agenda of that year was focused on terrorism and commerce, small and medium enterprise development, and contemplation of free trade agreements and regional trade agreements.
The 2005 Leaders' Meeting was held in Busan, South Korea. The meeting focused on the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, leading up to the WTO Ministerial Conference of 2005 held in Hong Kong in December. Weeks earlier, trade negotiations in Paris were held between several WTO members, including the United States and the European Union, centered on reducing agricultural trade barriers. APEC leaders at the summit urged the European Union to agree to reducing farm subsidies. Peaceful protests against APEC were staged in Busan, but the meeting schedule was not affected.
At the Leaders' Meeting held on November 19, 2006 in Hanoi, APEC leaders called for a new start to global free-trade negotiations while condemning terrorism and other threats to security. APEC also criticised North Korea for conducting a nuclear test and a missile test launch that year, urging the country to take "concrete and effective" steps toward nuclear disarmament. Concerns about nuclear proliferation in the region was discussed in addition to economic topics. The United States and Russia signed an agreement as part of Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
The APEC Australia 2007 Leaders' Meeting was held in Sydney from 2-9 September 2007. The political leaders agreed to an "aspirational goal" of a 25% reduction of energy intensity correlative with economic development. Extreme security measures including airborne sharpshooters and extensive steel-and-concrete barricades were deployed against anticipated protesters and potential terrorists. However, protest activities were peaceful and the security envelope was penetrated with ease by a spoof diplomatic motorcade manned by members of the Australian television program The Chaser, one of whom was dressed to resemble the Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
To meet the Bogor Goals, APEC carries out work in three main areas: 1. Trade and Investment Liberalisation 2. Business Facilitation 3. Economic and Technical Cooperation
When APEC was established in 1989 average trade barriers in the region stood at 16.9 percent, by 2004 they had been reduced to 5.5%.
APEC has long been at the forefront of reform efforts in the area of business facilitation. Between 2002-2006 the costs of business transactions across the region was reduced by 6 percent, thanks to the APEC Trade Facilitation Action Plan (TFAPI). Between 2007 and 2010, APEC hopes to achieve an additional 5 percent reduction in business transaction costs. To this end, a new Trade Facilitation Action Plan has been endorsed. According to a 2008 research brief published by the World Bank as part of its Trade Costs and Facilitation Project, increasing transparency in the region's trading system is critical if APEC is to meet its Bogor Goal targets.
APEC is considering the prospects and options for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) which would include all member economies of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Since 2006, the APEC Business Advisory Council, promoting the theory that a free trade area has the best chance of converging the member nations and ensuring stable economic growth under free trade, has lobbied for the creation of a high-level task force to study and develop a plan for a free trade area. The proposal for a FTAAP arose due to the lack of progress in the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations, and as a way to overcome the 'spaghetti bowl' effect created by overlapping and conflicting elements of free trade agreements between members - there are as many as 60 free trade agreements and 117 being negotiated in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.  The FTAAP is more ambitious in scope than the Doha round, which limits itself to reducing trade restrictions. The FTAAP would create a free trade zone that would considerably expand commerce and economic growth in the most dynamic region in the world. The economic expansion and growth in trade could exceed the expectations of other regional free trade areas such as the ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN + China, Japan, and South Korea). Some criticisms include that the diversion of trade within APEC members would create trade imbalances, market conflicts and complications with nations of other regions. The development of the FTAAP is expected to take many years, involving essential studies, evaluations and negotiations between member economies. It is also affected by the absence of political will and popular agitations and lobbying against free trade in domestic politics.
In 1993, APEC Leaders decided to establish a network of APEC Study Centres (ASCs) amongst universities and research institutions in APEC member economies.
Notable centers include:
APEC has been criticized for failing to clearly define itself or serve a useful purpose. According to the organisation it is "the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region" established to "further enhance economic growth and prosperity for the region and to strengthen the Asia-Pacific community." However, whether it has accomplished anything constructive remains debatable.