By Simi Mehta
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit is the premier Asia-Pacific economic forum, with the primary goal to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. It was established in 1989 at Canberra as an informal Ministerial-level dialogue group with 12 members. Currently there are 21 member countries, which are united to build a dynamic and harmonious Asia-Pacific community by championing free and open trade and investment, promoting and accelerating regional economic integration, encouraging economic and technical cooperation, enhancing human security, and facilitating a favorable and sustainable business environment.
According to data from the APEC, its members account for about 40 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of global gross domestic product and about 44 percent of world trade. Trade within APEC has grown nearly sevenfold since 1989, topping $11 trillion in 2011. The 2013 Summit in Indonesia was held almost 20 years after it hosted the Summit in 1994, which culminated with the Bogor Goals, which had open and free trade and investment as its main objective. It has served to promote economic cooperation among APEC members in sharing, engaging and opening opportunities among stakeholders.
The theme of the October 2013 Summit was “Towards Resilience and Growth Reshaping Priorities for Global Economy” which addressed important global business priorities and sought on ways to achieve inclusive sustainable growth for all APEC economies. It was attended by policy makers, business leaders and innovative thinkers on securing inclusive sustainable growth and achieving the aim of shared development and common prosperity for all.
Highlighting the importance of APEC in the prevailing difficult economic situation, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia said that by working together with resilience would lead to global growth. The annual gathering gave regional leaders the opportunity to talk trade and business cooperation, as well as discuss country-to-country issues in side meetings.
The APEC Summit was meant to make headway on a big free trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade bloc led by the United States that excludes China. The Obama administration has resolved to finish the complex negotiations that cover all economic sectors from intellectual property to agriculture to automobiles and aims to bring regional economic integration through trade and investment liberalization; all by the end of this year. However, the absence of the US President because of the government shutdown in Washington was damaging to American interests, because of no broad consensus among the countries on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Also, the Summit meetings highlighted a clash between the US and China for control in Asia. China, which has not been invited to join TPP talks, is pursuing a rival free trade deal involving 16 Asia-Pacific countries. The Chinese President Xi Jinping emerged as the dominant leader, especially in Indonesia, where he had visited a week before the inauguration of the Summit, announcing the opening up of a $50 billion infrastructure bank to service the region.
Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, who represented President Obama, reiterated the vitality of Asia for America at a time when all the nations are seeking strong and sustainable growth. At the sidelines of the Summit, he discussed with the Russian President Putin, organizing an international conference to help Syria create a transitional government, by mid- November, as called by the United Nations. The achievements of the 2013 Summit as outlined by President Yudhoyono included commitments to attaining the Bogor Goals by 2020. Accelerating the physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity was a focal point agreed by the leaders which would improve business climate, reduce production and transportation costs and improving supply chain in the region, thereby accelerating infrastructure and connectivity development and creating more job opportunities. The Leaders also agreed to integrate process of the organization with other multilateral processes of East Asia Summit and G20. The other strategic partnerships agreed by the leaders were the commitment to achieving strong, balanced and inclusive growth by promoting and facilitating
Small-middle sized enterprises (SMEs) business, enhancing food and energy and water resiliency to address impacts of increasing population and climate changes.
(The author is a Ph.D scholar in the American Studies Program at the Centre for Canadian, United States and Latin American Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and can be reached at [email protected]).