Toward a New Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

Key Recommendations

* Washington should drop its insistence on comprehensive trade and investment liberalization and should recognize the validity of a plurality of development models and priorities.

* The U.S. should support initiatives that build capacity relevant to the sustainable development agenda in the region.

* The U.S. should insist that APEC become more transparent, participatory, and accountable.

Cognizant that two of APEC's three legs are unsteady and faced with domestic opposition to new, large-scale free trade agreements, Washington could seize the opportunity to pursue a less narrowly focused policy agenda toward APEC. Trying to force liberalization on APEC member states has failed, and maintaining it as the centerpiece of U.S. policy in the region is counter-productive to Washingtons stated goals of promoting democracy, equity, and environmentally sustainable development. At a time when even mainstream economists endorse capital controls, U.S. policymakers should rethink their commitment to comprehensive economic liberalization.

As the world's broadest regional economic institution, APEC is worth preserving if it can do two things: 1) contribute to community building efforts in the region that address shared social, environmental, and economic challenges, and 2) move toward a more balanced sustainable development agenda. As first steps, the U.S. could gain support for these two goals by abandoning its liberalization-for-everyone approach, increasing its support for capacity building efforts at the national and regional levels through the eco-tech process, and leading by example at home.

U.S. policy should focus simultaneously on improving the transparency of APEC negotiations and on expanding the APEC agenda to include issues of concern to civil society organizations other than chambers of commerce. Any effort to make the APEC process more transparent and participatory should encourage more citizen involvement at the national level (particularly in the U.S.) in discussions about APEC policy. Although the Clinton administration has occasionally included NGO representatives in some U.S. delegations, this sporadic inclusion falls short of the steps needed to open up the U.S. policymaking process. Also important is the participation of nonbusiness citizen groups at the committee and working-group levels. Within APEC, the U.S. should facilitate NGO access to meetings and should urge that documents be made publicly available. Washington should support the proposal by the International Confederation of Trade Unions' Asia Pacific Labor Network to create a Labor Forum as a counterpart to its APEC Business Advisory Council. …