APEC’s establishment 25 years ago ushered in a new era of cooperation within the Pacific Rim that has facilitated the region’s economic progress and positioned it to address emerging challenges to long-term growth and development.
This is the view put forward by APEC pioneer, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and current APEC officials in the lead up to member economies’ first gathering during China’s year as chair in the port city of Ningbo this month.
“Asia-Pacific economies came together to form APEC at a time when the region was clearly on the rise,” said Hawke when reflecting on the 25th anniversary of his speech in Seoul, Korea on 31 January 1989 that publicly launched the idea and formation of APEC ten months later. “The goal was to support this process and capture the benefits of greater trade and economic partnership.”
“Overall, the Asia-Pacific is more cohesive, prosperous and resilient today than it was a quarter century ago,” Hawke declared. “Technical collaboration within APEC to improve the flow of goods, people and capital across borders, and build the capacity of diverse economies to address the economic and social dimensions of development has contributed to the region’s gains.”
APEC’s 21 member economies collectively account for about 40 per cent of the world’s population, half of global trade and 60 per cent of total gross domestic product. Increases in trade, investment and overall growth since 1989 have translated into a significant rise in per capita gross domestic product within the region.
“APEC has created a better life for the 2.8 billion people of its twenty-one members, making it easier for people to share products, services and the enormous benefits of rapid scientific and technological progress,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he discussed APEC’s achievements and priorities for 2014 in a speech in Beijing.
“We will build on the progress accumulated through the hard efforts of all APEC members in the past 25 years, work with all the other members to turn challenges into opportunities and build small gains into major accomplishments,” Wang added.
Priority issues within APEC in 2014 include strengthening regional economic integration against the backdrop of an expanded field of cooperation mechanisms and free trade agreements. Economic reform and development, and infrastructure are additional points of emphasis.
“Recognition of APEC’s 25 years of cooperation brings with it an opportunity to take stock of today’s new economic conditions and potentially game changing developments that are occurring in the regional architecture,” said Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director.
“How member economies address these issues will play an important role in determining the region’s growth path and, with it, APEC’s relevance in shaping a dynamic and interdependent Asia-Pacific community,” Dr Bollard concluded.
APEC Senior Officials and technical experts will gather in Ningbo from 15-28 February to shape the year’s agenda and advance joint member economy projects.
The APEC Business Advisory Council is beforehand meeting in Auckland, New Zealand from 11-14 February to formulate recommendations for strengthening the region’s business environment.