The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the private sector arm of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), just completed its third meeting of 2002 in Hong Kong, China, 7-10 August. During their deliberations, ABAC members expressed their concern about current economic instability in several regions of the world and about other threats to global economic health. However, they also asserted their strong belief that it is only through APEC members' continuing liberalization of trade and investment that development and prosperity can be shared throughout the APEC region.
This was the third ABAC meeting of APEC's Mexico Year, during which Mexico hosts the meeting of APEC Economic Leaders in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur in late October. ABAC's theme for this year is "Sharing Development to Reinforce Global Security". During the course of their meeting in Hong Kong, ABAC Members met with government and business leaders of Hong Kong, including with the Chief Executive, the Financial Secretary, and the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology.
In a dinner for ABAC members at Government House, Hong Kong, China Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa asserted, "All of APEC's achievements would not have been possible without ABAC's advice."
In conjunction with the ABAC meeting, ABAC Members also participated in a business Conference on "SMEs: Growth Engines of World Trade" organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Hong Kong's three ABAC members, Dr. Victor Fung, Mr. Peter Woo, and Sir Gordon Wu chaired the individual sessions of the conference.
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 and Ministers on issues affecting business. The Council is chaired this year by Mr. Javier Prieto de la Fuente, Senior Vice President of External Affairs of the CEMEX Group. In remarks earlier in Hong Kong, Mr. Prieto asserted, "APEC is at the halfway point toward the Bogor goals. (APEC's Bogor goals call for free trade in the APEC region in developed members by 2010 and in developing ones by 2020.) During this meeting ABAC finalized the text of its Report to APEC Economic Leaders.
As in the past years, ABAC's Report to APEC Leaders will contain recommendations on ways to improve business and investment in the APEC region and to help ensure that all in the region enjoy the benefits of globalization. ABAC members will present ABAC's recommendations to APEC Economic Leaders when they meet them in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, October 26-27.
At its Hong Kong meeting, ABAC refined its recommendations through working groups in technology, finance, business facilitation, small and medium enterprises, and in monitoring APEC's Individual Action Plans (IAPs) (These IAPs detail how each APEC member plans to meet the liberalization goals agreed to by APEC Leaders to established free trade in APEC economies by the 2010/2020 deadlines.)
During its deliberations this year, two themes cut across the discussions of nearly all of the working groups. The first was the need to craft responses to the Leaders calls at their meeting last October in Shanghai to fight terrorism and to do so in a way which also addresses current threats to the world economy. Accordingly, ABAC has developed a range of recommendations to enhance security while simultaneously ensuring that APEC continues its work in facilitating trade and investment flows throughout the Asia-Pacific.
In the second theme, ABAC reviewed all the recommendations it has made to APEC Leaders. In ABAC's view, many recommendations have yet to be implemented by APEC. Throughout this year, ABAC has pressed APEC hard to implement those recommendations that can be accomplished or at least initiated this year. As part of this campaign, ABAC provided a pre-report to the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Mexico in late May as well as to other, later meetings of APEC Ministers. This paper has given APEC the opportunity to incorporate ABAC's views into the policy-making process prior to the October Leaders' Meeting itself, when ABAC presents its final Report to Leaders. ABAC expects to review the progress on the more than 20 specific recommendations established in this Pre-Report.
The ABAC working groups in Hong Kong worked on a variety of specific issues in several areas. In finance, the issues include strengthening the security of financial systems; responding to the withdrawal of insurance coverage in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks in the U.S.; improving mechanisms for sovereign debt restructuring and regional economic cooperation; financing small and medium enterprises; and improving corporate governance.
Recommendations of the technology group center on the use of technology to manage security demands; e-government; e-commerce; e-learning for human resource development; and biotechnology.
In business facilitation, work has focused on security and the movement of goods and people; APEC's Food System initiatives; standards, mutual recognition and conformance; judicial training; support for the Doha Development Round WTO Trade talks; and a proposal for a Trans-Pacific Multimodal Security System.
The SME group worked with other groups on recommendations for financing for SMEs as well as on micro-financing; creating an enabling environment for SME growth; establishing SME partnerships; and promoting SME access to technology.
Finally, the group monitoring APEC's Action Plans emphasized increasing APEC's responsiveness to earlier ABAC recommendations; confronting non-tariff measures and the misuse of anti-dumping measures; strengthening the enforcement of intellectual property protections; improving the electronic Action Plans of APEC members for business friendliness and as a tool for business; and urging APEC to engage in more dialogue and partnership with the private sector.
ABAC's 2001 Report to APEC Leaders is available on the ABAC and APEC websites:
Additional background information about ABAC is already available at that site. To order a bound volume of the ABAC Report, contact Mr. Basilio as indicated below.
ABAC's 2002 Report to APEC Leaders will be released to the public in late September and will be available through the same means.