The body is a significant inter-governmental forum for promoting trade and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. It is having its headquarters in Singapore. This article briefly covers the origin and development of APEC from an informal summit to institutionalizing of the grouping, objectives and structure of the organisation.
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Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation & Development (APEC) – Origin and Development
The necessity of a permanent body to coordinate the economic relations among the market-oriented nations of the Pacific rim was voiced by the then Australian Prime Minister, Robert Hawke, in January 1989. The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), which consisted of a group of business, academics and government representatives and had been holding informal discussions since 1980, endorsed this proposal, and the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was held in Canberra, Australia, on November 6-7, 1989. The meeting was attended by five Pacific industrial economies (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the US), the then members of ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Brunei) and south Korea. In the beginning, the forum remained an informal and unstructured arrangement for ‘dialogue’ among participating countries, primarily because ASEAN nations were concerned about being overshadowed by economic giants such as Canada, Japan and the US in a regional organisation. However, as the concept of regional economic groupings gained ground throughout the world, it was decided to institutionalize the grouping. The 1991 Ministerial Meeting at Seoul, South Korea, adopted a declaration outlining the objectives and organizational structure of APEC, and approved the membership of China, Hong Kong (Hong Kong at that time was still under lease to the UK) and Taiwan. The institutionalization of APEC was completed in 1992 when the Bangkok Ministerial Meeting decided to establish a permanent Secretariat in Singapore.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation – Objectives
The broad objectives are to provide a forum for discussion on a wide range of economic issues, and to promote multilateral cooperation among the market-oriented economies of the region. Specifically, APEC aims to promote economic and technical cooperation among the members by stimulating flow of goods, services, capital and technology; to develop a liberalized trade and investment regime; to encourage private investment, and to support ‘open regionalism’.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – Structure
APEC consists of Annual Ministerial Meetings, Senior Officials Meeting, Working Groups and a Secretariat. The governing body of APEC is the Annual Ministerial Meeting of the foreign and trade ministers of all the member-states. The chairmanship of the meetings rotates every year among the members. The Senior Officials Meetings, consisting of representatives of all the member-states, are held annually and are responsible for the implementation of policies framed by Ministerial Meetings. There are ten Working Groups dealing with Telecommunications, Trade and Investment Data, Fisheries, Tourism, Transportation, Trade Promotion, Investment and Technology, Human Resource Development, Regional Energy Cooperation and Marine Resource Conservation, and two ad hoc groups dealing with Regional Trade Liberalization and Economic Policy. The Secretariat is headed by the Executive Director who holds a term of one year.
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