IT’S been a while since the Philippines hosted a major international business economic event. One would have to go all the way back to the 1970s when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings were held in Manila, and to the 1990s when we first hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders Summit (1996) and the annual meetings of the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). So it’s a welcome development that major economic forums are being held in the country once again. Both Asian Development Bank (2012) and the World Economic Forum (2014) held their annual global and regional meetings here. Apec, PECC and PBEC are all returning to the Philippines this year and Asean will hold two major conferences here over the next two years, including the Asean Summit marking its 50th anniversary in 2017.
Why is this important anyway and what should we do to get the full benefit of these meetings? As Apec is composed of 21 economies (Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People’s Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the United States; and Vietnam), it represents a significant part of the global economy. It accounts for 40 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of global gross domestic product, and 44 percent of world trade.
Being a member and interacting with the different economies covers many of our major international economic partners and sources of trade and investments. On top of that, being the host for this year’s Apec also means chairing many of the meetings, from the Senior Officials Meetings to the Ministerials Meetings and the Economic Leaders’ Meetings. That provides us a great opportunity to help set the agenda for a discussion on issues that are important to us.
This year’s Apec takes place at a time when the global economy is undergoing some challenges. Over the past decade, we’ve all seen economic growth but have nonetheless seen income gaps widen, between countries and within countries. At the same time, community resiliency has been challenged by natural disasters and climate change. Thus, the government has chosen “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World” as its theme for our Apec chairmanship and hosting year. It’s a theme that all Apec economies, even the developed ones, can relate to.
The theme is built around four key points: investing in people; fostering micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs); building sustainable and resilient communities; and enhancing regional economic integration. It’s a theme that resonates with us in the business community. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our themes converge with the government’s.
Whether it’s on the Apec Business Advisory Council’s (ABAC) agenda or on the program of the Apec 2015 CEO Summit that we will host in November in Manila, our topics of discussion revolve around providing education and health for society, promoting the growth and development of MSMEs and their integration in global value chains, technology and innovation, building better cities, sustainability and resilience, and expanding international trade.
In the run-up to the Apec CEO Summit and the Leaders’ Meeting in November, we’ve worked closely with the government to organize a series of dialogues between Apec ministers, senior officials, and business executives. By linking the government and the private sector together in conversation, we feel that both sides will benefit from the exchange of ideas. So far, such dialogues have been held with trade ministers, health ministers, finance ministers, and city mayors and local government officials. This week in Iloilo, the dialogue continues with disaster management officials and SME ministers.
This is just one more way the Philippines has innovated on the Apec process and generated benefits from public-private dialogues.
The author is private sector co-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council and chief operating officer of the Apec 2015 CEO Summit. He can be contacted at [email protected].