The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum is the main forum for promoting growth, technical and economic cooperation, trade facilitation and liberalization, and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. It was created in 1989, at the behest of Australia and Japan, to strengthen the community of the Asia-Pacific region.
A major long-term goal is the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). Furthermore, in 1994, economies defined the "Bogor Goals" of free and open trade, which are met by 2020. In May of the present year, the APEC Vision Group (AVG) was officially created, which will be responsible for defining the Forum's post 2020 vision.
It has 21 members, which are known as " economies ". These are: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong; Indonesia; Japan; South Korea, Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States and Viet Nam. The moratorium was revoked in 2010 with regard to the entry of new members. However, this issue has not been addressed since then. The last economies to join were Peru, Russia and Vietnam in 1998.
Together, these 21 economies currently represent the most dynamic economic region in the world with 40% of world's population, 60% of global GDP and 50% of total trade.
APEC.ORG is the only inter-governmental organization operating in the world on the basis of non-binding commitments and open dialogue. Unlike other multilateral economic bodies, decisions made within APEC are reached by consensus and commitments are made on a voluntary basis.
APEC.ORG is essentially a forum for economic and technical cooperation and it is in this context that it allows applying for funds for economies to share good practices and through this tool advance the prosperity of the region and its people.
APEC.ORG has three official observers:
- Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC);
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat;
- Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat
APEC seeks to achieve its objectives through a broad work agenda based on three pillars:
l. Trade and investment liberalization;
ll. Business facilitation; and
lll. Economic and technical cooperation.
The long-term objective of the Forum was established in 1994, by subscribing to the so-called "Bogor Goals" in Indonesia, under which members committed themselves to "free and open trade and investment in the region". Since their subscription, the Bogor Goals have played an important role in the orientation of APEC programs and objectives. These targets set deadlines for achieving their objectives: 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.
In addition, APEC provides the private sector with a unique platform to raise its priority trade and investment issues. To this end, in 1995, a formal channel was established for the private world to share its concerns, priorities, points of view, and formulate recommendations, called the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), which brings together senior business executives (three for each economy), appointed by their respective governments.
In the case of Chile, President Sebastián Piñera appointed the members of the current ABAC on May 7, 2018. The holders are: Richard von Appen, President of Ultramar; Alfonso Swett, President of the CPC; and Rosario Navarro, SOFOFA Councillor; and the alternates: Bernardo Larraín, President of SOFOFA; Alejandra Mustakis, President of ASECH; and Eduardo Chadwick, President of Grupo Viñas Errázuriz.
APEC plays a very important role as an "incubator of ideas" for initiatives seeking to drive trade and investment in the region, promoting various commitments, agreements and specific tools aimed at this objective. In this regard, among many, the following initiatives stand out:
- APEC BUSINESS TRAVEL CARD (ABTC)
The ABTC card was initially tested by three APEC economies in 1997, and then expanded to 19 of the 21 economies. With a term of up to five years, this card allows business travelers and government officials to enter 19 APEC economies, without the need for a visa, for up to 90 days. Cardholders also benefit from expeditious access to major airports in all member economies of the Forum.
- ENVIRONMENTAL GOODS
In 2012, Leaders - heads of government from each member economy of the Forum - agreed to reduce tariffs on 54 environmental goods to a tariff of 5% or less by 2015. That collective effort laid the groundwork for the development of the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA), which is still under negotiation at the WTO.
- FREE TRADE AREA OF ASIA PACIFIC (FTAAP)
In the year APEC Chile 2004, the development of a free trade area for the entire Asia-Pacific region (FTAAP) was proposed, which would generate a great economic benefit by stimulating greater trade and investment among the members of the Forum. This idea was formally addressed by APEC Leaders - heads of government from each member economy of the Forum - as a long-term vision, having also identified other regional trade agreements, including the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Association) as possible ways to achieve the FTAAP.
- INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT (ITA)
At the 1996 Summit, APEC Leaders manifested their express support for signing the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which aims to eliminate tariffs on a wide range of information technology products. In 2011, Leaders announced their intention to update the ITA, which was formally expanded to cover 201 new products by December 2015. Today, the Forum promotes initiatives to implement that agreement, along with urging members who are not yet parties to join.
APEC maintains a cyclical and hierarchical meeting structure, ranging from the highest work level, of the member economies' Leaders, to the most technical level, where Working Groups have been established focusing on a wide range of topics, ranging from trade facilitation, digital trade, finance, food security, investment, intellectual property, mining and services, to the fight against corruption.
At Working Group meetings (which take place regularly throughout the year), officials discuss issues of interest to both member economies and the private sector concerning methods of removing barriers to trade and investment; promote the use of international best regulatory practices; formulate capacity-building initiatives; and develop work plans to achieve the specific objectives of each group, always related to the short-, medium- and long-range goals of the Forum.
APEC Working Groups deliver reports and recommendations to the High Representatives of the economies, who meet regularly at the SOM meetings, convened five times a year, who oversee the Forum's technical work. In this context, the High Representatives act as a coordinating body for all APEC activities.
On the other hand, the Ministers responsible for Trade, Finance, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Foreign Affairs meet annually; while the Ministers of Education, Energy, Environment, Sustainable Development, Science and Technology, Telecommunications and Transport meet every two to three years. These latter meetings are at discretion of the host economy.
At the end of each year, APEC Leaders meet at the Economic Leaders Summit (AELM). At that meeting, which is held in a retreat format and without records, Leaders freely discuss APEC's achievements during the year, analyze the global economic contingency, and establish guidelines for future work. The Summit ends with a Leaders' Joint Declaration, which establishes the commitments on all the economic cooperation issues assumed by the different economies and projects the Forum's work in these topics.
APEC divides its work into four committees:
• Committee on Trade and Investment - CTI;
• CSOM Steering Committee on ECOTECH - SCE;
• Economic Committee - EC; and
• Budget and Management Committee - BMC.
As for the Committees, they must report to the High Representatives, who approve their reports and submit certain initiatives to the consideration of the relevant Ministers for approval and/or consideration, depending on the subject matter. Ministers may, in turn, request approval from Leaders for certain initiatives that are of greater relevance.
These Committees, in turn, are in charge of Sub-committees, Working Groups, Expert Groups, Public-Private Dialogues, Public-Private Policy Associations, Working Forces and Friends of the Chair (FoTC), who periodically report on their progress in meeting the Forum's objectives, the initiatives they are developing and their working plans.
The APEC Secretariat is in Singapore and operates as the central support mechanism for the APEC process. It provides coordination, technical support and consultancy as well as information management, communications and public outreach services.