History & Mission of APEC

The idea of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping was first publicly broached by former Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Bob Hawke, during a speech in Seoul, Korea in January 1989. Later that year, Australia hosted the first annual meeting of Foreign and Trade Ministers from 12 Asia-Pacific economies to discuss ways to increase cooperation in this fast-expanding region of the world, and that resulted into the establishment of APEC.

The founding members were: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

Between its establishment in 1989 and the first annual meeting of APEC Leaders in 1993, APEC accepted six new members: In November 1991, three members were welcomed into the organisation: the People's Republic of China (1991), Hong Kong, China (1991), Chinese Taipei (1991); Mexico (1993), Papua New Guinea (1993), Chile (1994).  Three more economies - Peru, Russia and Vietnam – joined in November 1998, extending APEC membership to 21 member economies. A moratorium on new membership was agreed up to the end of 2010, which means APEC member economies are now in a position to consider whether or not to lift the moratorium.

There are three official observers to APEC: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and the South Pacific Forum (SPF).

The First APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting: 1993

Between 1989 and 1992, APEC met as an informal senior official and Ministerial level dialogue. In 1993, former United States President, Mr Bill Clinton, established the practice of an annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting to give trade liberalization and economic cooperation further impetus and high level commitment, to develop a spirit of community in the region and to promote sustainable growth and equitable development. Since then, leaders of member economies meet every year, normally in November,  to discuss trade and economic issues concerning growth and development of the Asia Pacific Region.

Consensus and non-binding principles

APEC’s operation mechanism is premised on the principle of consensus and non-binding agreements. Collective action plans or policy initiatives are voluntary, focusing on principles of best practice, developed by “champion” economies, often using “pathfinder” groups of members to which further members can be added as confidence and experience builds around such plans or policies. APEC is thus built around a non-binding process of cooperation, rather than being a forum for the negotiation of binding rules.

APEC has no treaty obligations required of its participants.  For example, it would have no direct role in the operation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) in the event such an organisation were to be created, but  could provide a framework within which such a regional agreement might be negotiated. 

The Bogor Goals

The Bogor Goals sit at the heart of the APEC movement, and at a basic level provide inspiration for all APEC activity. Call the Bogor Goals because they were agreed by APEC Economic Leaders in Bogor in Indonesia in 1994, they provided a vision of achieving free and open trade and investment in the APEC region – by 2010 for developed member economies, and by 2020 for APEC’s developing economies. The Goals define APEC’s priority focus on Trade and Investment liberalisation, Business Facilitation and Economic and Technical Cooperation.

APEC Meetings

Each year, a single “host” economy takes responsibility for organisation of APEC meetings.

APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings are held once a year in the APEC host economy, immediately after the Annual APEC Ministerial Meetings of foreign and economic/trade ministers. This is normally in November.

Sectoral Ministerial Meetings are held regularly covering areas such as education, energy, environment and sustainable development, finance, human resource development, regional science and technology cooperation, small and medium enterprises, telecommunications and information industry, tourism, trade, transportation and women's affairs. By convention, many of these meetings are “clustered” around Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOMs) held three times a year, focusing policy discussion into the annual Leaders’ Meeting.

APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) meetings: each APEC member economy is entitled to appoint three business representatives to ABAC, whose are held four times per year to discuss and provide counsel on APEC issues from a business perspective. ABAC members are also regularly invited to attend, and made submissions to Ministerial and senior official meetings.

The Chairmanship

The APEC Chairmanship each year is decided by APEC member economies by consensus. The Economic Leaders', Ministerial and Senior Officials' Meetings in the year are hosted by the Chair. APEC 2014 is chaired by China, while Indonesia will chair APEC in 2015.

Source: APEC official website

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