His Excellency President Ernesto Zedillo, President of Mexico
His Excellency, Secretary Carños Ruiz Sacristan
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour for me to be invited to speak at the opening of the 4th APEC Ministerial Meeting on Telecommunications and Information Industry. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Sacristán and his staff for the excellent Meeting arrangement in such a magnificent surroundings.
I would also like to thank the Honourable Ministers for allowing me this opportunity to share with you some views on what we at the Senior Economic Official and APEC Secretariat see as emerging consensus for APEC as we enter the 21st Century.
The Auckland Challenge
Last year in Auckland, APEC Leaders issued a declaration - the Auckland Challenge - that sets out their vision for APEC in post Asian economic crisis. Throughout those two difficult years, APEC economies consistently maintained their commitment to the goals of free and open trade and by the time Leaders gathered in Auckland in September 1999 the affected economies were showing signs of recovery. Thus, APEC was beginning to emerge from the crisis to face the new millennium with renewed confidence and vigour.
In order to sustain long-term economic growth, there is a need to improve the efficiency of domestic markets through wider structural and regulatory reforms. Through the Auckland Challenge, Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen markets and on-going reforms. They endorsed new APEC initiatives and Principles that ensure region's competitiveness and capacity to meet future challenges.
The Declaration embraces, among others, elements of greater transparency and predictability in corporate governance, improvement in quality regulation and capacity of regulators, and building favourable regional and international environment for free and fair competition. Noting that APEC's trade facilitation programmes are already delivering substantial benefits , Leaders instructed Ministers to give priority to this work in 2000, in consultation with business. In response to this, Senior Officials are now developing of a set of non-binding APEC principles on trade facilitation. This exercise will cut across the work of several APEC fora including the Telecommunications Working Group.
In the lead up to the WTO meeting in Seattle, Leaders committed themselves to the launch of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. In the aftermath of Seattle there has been considerable discussion on the possible next steps in the WTO process. APEC will continue to support and contribute to the multilateral trading system and APEC Trade Ministers will be discussing how to rebuild the momentum for a new WTO round when they meet in Darwin, Australia in a fortnight's time. Trade Ministers will also be discussing confidence-building measures including capacity building for implementation of WTO agreements.
Economic and technical cooperation or Ecotech continues to grow in importance in APEC. At the Auckland Meeting, Leaders spoke of the need to lift the people of the region into prosperity and narrow the development gap among Asia-Pacific economies. To achieve this it will be necessary to enhance economic and technical cooperation in APEC, and therefore, Leaders directed Ministers to give special attention to improving effective and coordinated delivery of APEC's Ecotech and capacity building programmes.
APEC 2000 Themes and Priorities
Brunei Darussalam, as the current APEC Chair, has chosen Delivering to the community as this year's theme for APEC. The underlying thought behind this theme is the belief that APEC needs to demonstrate to the people who make up this community that it brings benefits to them. This means that while APEC is involved in developing more open markets, it is also investing in the people and business that operate in those markets.
Leaders recognised that new technology was bringing about great changes and that efforts must be made to ensure that everyone will benefit from it. They noted that "effective development and application of knowledge will be a key driver of future economic success," and pledged, "to ensure that APEC economies are at the forefront of building and sharing their expertise in this vital sector." Cooperation in fields such as e-education, science and technology and life-long skills development would be strengthened. APEC would continue its efforts to create a favourable environment for business in cooperation with the private sector in accordance with the APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce. Trade Ministers will also have an opportunity to review a progress report on the implementation of APEC's paperless trading goals.
This year's priorities, built on the robust outcomes of the Auckland meetings, aim to advance APEC's main agenda as well as address issues of community interest in tyhis modern economy.
Under the sub-theme - Creating New Opportunities APEC will be focusing on information and communications technology. Prioritising this area means recognizing the profound effect of the rapid advancements in technology on our daily lives. At the same time there is awareness that the rapid advancements in technology also increases the possibility of widening the development gap. It highlights the need for human capacity to keep pace with developments in technology so that all member economies can fully benefit for the opportunities offered by the new technologies.
One of the ways how APEC intends to address this issue is thorugh economic and technical cooperation particularly in capacity building and skills development.
There is now increasing demand for APEC to enhance APEC public outreach as part of the strategy of bringing APEC closer to the community and to give coherence and community relevance to the wide-ranging APEC agenda. This calls for improving and communicating APEC's action plans, improving information flows, particularly to the SMEs and broadening awareness of youth in our communities. All these are within this year's major focus.
As a continued effort to make itself relevant to business, Leaders have repeatedly called for more private sector involvement in all relevant APEC activities. Last year they noted that further dialogue with the private sector, at all level, is essential to maintain that dynamism and relevance.
Role of Info communications in Achieving APEC goals
The work of the APEC Telecommunications Working Group or TEL in building the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure and the Asia-Pacific Information Society is vital to APEC's efforts in fulfilling its promise of enhancing the prosperity and well being of the people in the region. Information technology that transforms the global landscape and the way we work and live has provided us with the tool to promote development and economic growth by helping to reduce costs, improve efficiency and create employment.
TEL has been in the forefront of new developments in technology. It has been a leader in APEC in dealing with cutting-edge technology including the various applications of the Internet such as e-commerce, telemedicine and distance learning. But it is also important for people to have access to the technology in order to benefit from it. Therefore it is essential for TEL to continue it work on infrastructure development, in particular, the development of the Asia-Pacific Information Infrastructure.
APEC Leaders have pointed out that one of the main challenges associated with rapid advances in technology is "to ensure full and successful participation by our populations in the new economy." TEL's extensive works indcuding the Reference Framework for Action on Electronic Commerce approved at TELMIN 3 and the participation of the private sector in line with Leaders' call for greater public-private sector collaboration are meant to meet these challenges.
However, advancement in technology and infrastructure are not ends in themselves. As Leaders have noted, APEC must also take care of the human dimension and special attention must be given to capacity building and skills development. This is critical in view of the need for skills to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology.
APEC 2000's theme allows us an opportunity to address this concern.
Finally, trade and investment liberalisation in the telecommunications sector is fundamental to the attainment of the Bogor goals. As a vital tool for business a liberalised telecommunications market will be a catalyst for further economic growth and development.