Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Article excerpt

Key Points

* APEC is the largest, most diverse trans-Pacific forum of its kind.

* APEC envisions elimination of all trade and investment barriers by 2010 for the wealthiest countries and by 2020 for the poorest ones.

* APEC is in a quandary due to the region's social and economic crises and the growing opposition to the U.S.-dominated liberalization agenda.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), founded by a dozen countries in 1989, has matured into a forum of twenty-one countries that addresses economic issues in the Asia-Pacific region. This diverse group includes the U.S., Canada, China, Taiwan (officially Chinese Taipei), Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam.

Together, the APEC countries account for nearly half of the world's merchandise trade, half the global GNP, and approximately half of the world's population. Operating from a modest secretariat in Singapore, APEC sponsors regular meetings and annual summits of senior government officials and heads of state. APEC operates by consensus rather than through binding agreements and the type of legalism evident in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the European Union (EU). Through a process of "concerted unilateralism," APEC members define broad regional goals but leave the specific aspects of implementation to each nation.

APEC consists of three occasionally overlapping processes. The first is economic and technical cooperation promoting economic and human resource development, or "eco-tech."

The second is trade and investment liberalization, an agenda that emerged at its 1993 meeting when President Clinton invited the (then) 18 APEC leaders to Blake Island, Washington, for the first-ever APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. The Bogor Declaration, adopted in 1994, proclaimed the elimination of all trade and investment barriers by 2010 for APEC's wealthiest countries and by 2020 for its poorest ones. Subsequent meetings led to a refinement of these goals in terms of individual and collective action plans with the actual liberalization commitments.

At the 1997 meeting, APEC leaders agreed to negotiate mandatory liberalization targets in nine sectors on a fast-track basis covering $1.5 trillion in trade (known as Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalization). Those sectors included: chemicals, fisheries, forestry, energy goods and services, environmental goods and services, gems and jewelry, medical equipment, toys, and a telecommunications mutual recognition agreement. …