IN 1989 the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) was formed among member-nations to serve as a forum to discuss free trade, market liberalization and promotion of investment and economic integration. Since it is considered a post-Cold War reaction to the proliferation of trading blocs in various regions around the globe, the US and other developed countries played a central role in supporting its growth as an organization.
This also explains why Apec is supportive of the Group of 20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth in the Asia-Pacific region. From Day One of its formation, Apec’s fervent hope is that stronger and closer economic linkages will ultimately result to financial prosperity that can benefit its member-states.
Historic role to cooperate
From its original 12 members way back 1989, Apec is currently composed of 21 member-economies: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the US and Vietnam. Per Apec statistics, the member-states now represent 40 percent of global population, over 40 percent of world trade, and over 50 percent of global GDP.
If these nations indeed get their act together and fulfill Apec’s objectives by implementing the action plans, Apec can wield huge economic and political power. Historical events prove the resilience of this region, no matter how difficult and painful the adversities it had to face.
Host of nations
Our country is hosting the Apec forum this week and President Aquino had given 100-percent government backing for it and galvanized the private sector to contribute to its success. The 2015 theme of “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World,” aims to showcase the region’s great achievements in 2014 to “advance regional integration, economic reform and innovative development, and infrastructure investment and comprehensive connectivity.” In several of his pronouncements, the President mentioned that more integrated, inclusive economies have supported average GDP growth of 6.3 percent between 2010 and 2013, and 5.8 percent over the first three quarters of this year for the Philippines, uplifting its 100 million people. Where economic progress leads to better lives and when people are fueled to work more for economic goals, this leads to a cycle of more growth and continuous development, according to the President.
Undoubtedly, there are many lingering doubts about the real measure of success for Apec as an international trade organization. Principally, similar organizations of the same nature, the members share common economic objectives and policy initiatives, but their big banner activities do not result to binding and enforceable agreements, so the states still pursue their own interests, which are often inconsistent or even violative of the principles agreed upon during their yearly meetings. Because of its loose, consensus-focused organizational structure, Apec’s goals may be well-meaning but are ambiguous. Some critics say that there are too many interests, overlapping working groups, duplicative projects within it and without significant resourcing and these result to misprioritization. The lack of rules and absence of enforcement mechanisms for operationalizing the decisions of the member-states frustrate its action plans.
Commitments of members are still wanting and there is evident lack of political support for trade and investment liberalization, the centerpiece of Apec’s creation. Importantly, rapid economic growth and globalization have a frightening twin issue—that of security.
The incessant movement of people, money, goods, services and technology go hand in hand with more criminal acts and terroristic activities which involve drugs, white slavery and illegal drugs across jurisdictions. The great divide between issues about economics and security no longer exists. It is time that this be tackled head on by the member-states. Energy scarcity, global health outbreaks, climate change and other present-day concerns should, likewise, be urgently addressed.
Hope in the future
But amid all these criticisms, this week’s Apec forum is a superb chance for the Philippines to show its economic, social and political gains in the last few years. We should not miss the prospects of connecting, networking, building positive relationships and ardently marketing our nation to the international community who has been quite impressed with our recent successes despite daunting challenges.
Yes, it’s time to be proud of the good reputation that the Philippines has been slowly building up with the help and wealth of its talented, vibrant, hard working and compassionate people, be they overseas Filipino workers, business- process outsourcing workers, young professionals, laborers in the agricultural, industrial or commercial or service sectors and even our government employees.
Indeed, let us celebrate them as we welcome our investment and trading partners at our doorsteps.