Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 2

April 09, 2013



Through Sunday and Monday, APEC’s Counter-Terrorism Task Force monopolised the APEC action. From my memory, this is normally highly technical and inevitably a bit insensitive to our ABAC trade and investment liberalization priorities, given their own focus on security. But I found some surprises. First, the US provided an excellent presentation on securing the supply chain which would deserve some attention at our next ABAC meeting in Kyoto.

Second, the US also summarized progress in the Travel Facilitation Initiative, which gave more information than we have seen before, and suggested quite encouraging progress.

It was quite neat to see how well focused the group was on an overarching Strategic Plan, with its Action Plan anchored to this. After wading through the 115-page “laundry list” strategic plan drawn up for the Policy Partnership on Food Security, it was good to see a group that seems to “get” the concept of strategic planning. Perhaps that is what worrying about terrorism does to you.

It was also neat to see how the group has built its activity around four security challenges: secure supply chains; secure travel; secure finance; and secure infrastructure. The first two of these we in ABAC are familiar with over past discussions, but the latter two had some novel elements. In principle, the issue of secure finance looks highly relevant to ABAC, but APEC’s love of acronyms made it hard to discover how. Australia presented to us on the DNFBP project. Huh? That is the Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions project. I’m still not wholly clear  what this amounts to, but it sounds relevant.

But then our Russian friends came in with an acronymic howler. They wanted to talk about the “forthcoming FATF Presidency and the dynamics of the AML/CFT situation”. Ouch. I went to Google to see what all this meant, and suddenly there was light. FATF is a Financial Action Task Force, and AML/CFT is about Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism. All very important and interesting once the acronymics are blown away. I myself am getting worried about the number of APEC people suffering from “CAD” – chronic acronym disorder”. We perhaps need to worry about this as we are worrying about H7N9: as yet there is no proof that CAD is life threatening, but it is clearly highly contagious from human to human!

As if to give crowning prominence to acronyms, there was at the end of the meeting a protracted debate over whether the CTTF should become the CTWG or the CTG, or a combination of other longer acronyms. In short, Task Forces are supposed to be ad hoc groups – and members of the Counter Terrorism Task Force feel that after nine years of intensive activity they have outgrown this status, and deserve to be ranged on an equal and permanent footing with other Working Groups – hence CTWG. You might argue that after nine years of marvelous effectiveness under its present name, there is no clear urgency to change it, but the view across the 17 economies present at the meeting (no China, Japan, Hong Kong China, or Thailand) seemed to be that this was very much needed. So I was witness to the conception of a new – as yet to be christened – APEC acronym yesterday.


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