The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the private sector arm of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, held its second meeting of 2001 in Moscow, Russia, May 17-19. ABAC's theme for 2001 is: "Promoting Common Development through Capacity Building and Full Participation." The recommendations ABAC develops will be submitted to APEC Economic Leaders when both groups meet in Shanghai in October later this year.

This was the first ABAC meeting held in Russia. During the course of the meeting, ABAC members met with government officials and top business leaders in Russia. In welcoming the ABAC members to a gala dinner, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin said, "Russia attaches great importance to cooperating with APEC and this meeting is the first step to more open and intensive cooperation." In addition, as part of the program, ABAC members attended a presentation on a large number of potential investment projects in Russia, a session which also explored the investment climate in Russia.

ABAC comprises up to three senior business representatives from each of APEC's 21 member economies appointed by their respective heads of economy to advise APEC Economic Leaders on issues affecting business. The Council is chaired this year by Mr. Qin Xiao, Vice Chairman, China International Trust and Investment Corporation. In ABAC's first meeting of the year in the U.S., Mr. Qin said that ABAC's work in 2001 is to ensure that APEC remains on track in continuing to liberalize trade and investment while strengthening its work in capacity building and full participation.

The work of the Council is managed through task forces, a committee and a caucus. This year, the groups will work in the areas of Trade and Investment, Finance, and Technology. In addition, the Action Plan Monitoring Committee will continue to track the progress of APEC's Inpidual Action Plans, the key tool laying out APEC economies' plans for trade and investment liberalization. Highlighting the vital role small and medium enterprises play in all economies, the already-existing Informal SME Caucus was recently formalized and is now more closely integrated into the work of ABAC.

These working-level groups will finalize their work program and the details of their recommendations over the coming months. ABAC made substantial progress in several key areas at this Moscow meeting. Overall, ABAC is focussing on ensuring implementation of its earlier recommendations as well as taking on new initiatives. The Trade and Investment Task Force is pushing for a new trade round of the World Trade Organization, calling for continued simplification and harmonization of customs procedures, urging that standards and conformance regimes in APEC members meet international norms, and looking for implementation of the APEC Food System. The Finance Task Force is building on last year?s work on the adoption of internationally accepted financial standards, capacity building, and strengthening the international financial system. The Task Force is also continuing to explore development of domestic capital markets in the Asia-Pacific. The Technology Task Force is continuing earlier work in e-commerce readiness and government on-line and is also developing steps to reduce the "digital pide" among APEC economies. The Action Plan Monitoring Committee is monitoring implementation of APEC's electronic Inpidual Action Plans, or e-IAPs, and exploring ways of expanding and improving them. The SME Caucus is working on improving the access of small and medium enterprises to both financing and information and communication technology and on strengthening linkages with the SME ministerial meeting. Also, the Caucus will foster the expansion of strategic business partnership initiatives and examine best practices in the management, structure, and organization of government SME agencies in the region.

As in past years, ABAC's work will culminate in a report containing recommendations targeting ways to improve the business and investment climate in the APEC region and to helping ensure that all in the region enjoy the benefits of globalization. ABAC will develop and refine these recommendations in a further meeting in Singapore. ABAC will then present its recommendations in its report to APEC Economic Leaders when both groups meet in Shanghai, October 20-21 at the ABAC Dialogue with APEC Leaders.

ABAC's 2000 Report to APEC Leaders is available on the ABAC and APEC websites: http://abaconline.org and http://www.apecsec.org.sg.

Additional background information about ABAC is already available at that site. To order a bound volume of the ABAC Report, contact Mr. Luz as indicated below.