Who would have known that many of the world’s greatest super powers came together in Beijing this week to talk about economic development and trade – the truth is you would hardly hear those words over the hum drum of geo-politics, the way in the middle east, the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH 17 or the arguing Sino-Japanese fetish over islands in the South China Sea – but it should have been about trade and the economy.
But here it is. The Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation – otherwise known as APEC – gather in Beijing and while they have said that they will “focus on three priority areas, Advancing Regional Economic Integration, Promoting Innovative Development, Economic Reform and Growth, and Strengthening Comprehensive Connectivity and Infrastructure Development.” The reality is a lot of the ground work for those things was done well in advance of leaders arriving.
APEC was formed back in 1989 as economies of the Pacific Rim began to expand and take off. In actual fact it was probably more down to the recognition that Asia was in the rise and something had to replace the old trading blocs of the pre-eighties. Member countries account for about 40% of the world’s population and 54% of the world’s GDP as well as 44% of world trade – so it’s no small club.
Canada, the USA, China, Japan, South Korea and the Mexicans are all involved as are Australia, Indonesia and more – like other summits or forums it’s a club of the haves and have nots – developed versus developing countries.
But, like I said, if you had have blinked you may have missed the intent of what APEC was all about. It didn’t help that Australia’s Prime Minister wanted to take a crack at Vladimir Putin (which didn’t happen – so very disappointed not to have seen that on the nightly news) and the US was courting more resources for the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
Having just been in Beijing to be a part of the speakers panel on rural development I have to say not seeing much on that issue in the discussions was a little disappointing because now I wonder why I even bothered getting on that plane! But, like I said – a lot of the ground work had already been done.
In the communique the leaders stated that “We held substantial discussions on the economic situation in the region, the changing global and regional landscape, the challenges and opportunities for APEC member economies, and the vision for APEC cooperation.” – no that would have been the officials.
When it came to the blockages at the World Trade Organisation they said they would highly commend something called the Bali Package and took some time to express their grave concern – “We express our grave concern regarding the impasse in the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which has resulted in stalemate and uncertainties over other Bali decisions. These developments have affected the credibility of the WTO negotiating function. In finding solutions to the implementation of the Bali decisions, APEC will exert creative leadership and energy together with all WTO members in unlocking this impasse, putting all Bali decisions back on track, and proceeding with the formulation of Post-Bali Work Program, as a key stepping stone to concluding the Doha Round.” – thanks officials.
There was however a photo of world leaders dressed in the funny shirts (a trademarked of APEC meetings), fireworks and a slap up dinner. What really happened had more to do with everything else other than the central tenant of APEC – trade and economic co-operation.
The next stop on the world leader train is in Brisbane in a few days for the G-20 where the forward planes carrying limo’s and security have started to land. Jacob Zuma has arrived from South Africa a few days ahead of the others and we are a little unsure as to how many of his wives he has bought with him! No doubt the G-20 experience will hopefully return some better results.
In terms of did APEC fail entrepreneurs and small business? The truth is you have to begin something in order to fail at it and small business very rarely rates a mention in these forums which is stupid given they are the back bone of many of the member countries sitting around the table.
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