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‘APEC Approach’ Stresses Flexibility and Consensus-Building

Nov 19 , 2015
  • Wang Yusheng

    Executive Director, China Foundation for Int'l Studies

The theme of the 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting is “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World”. The theme reflects the reality and common aspirations of the Asia-Pacific region. Inclusiveness is the prerequisite of cooperation and common development, and the anchor of equal partnerships. And in order to “build a better world”, mutually beneficial cooperation and sustainable common development are essential, an innovative spirit that incessantly drives development is needed, and openness must be pursued and encouraged.

Last year, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing adopted the Beijing Agenda for an Integrated, Innovative and Interconnected Asia-Pacific, decided to launch the roadmap process for APEC’s contribution to the realization of an FTAAP. The leaders adopted a series of documents concerning innovative development, economic reform and growth, and a blueprint on connectivity, and they laid out the vision of shaping the future through the Asia-Pacific partnership. It marked APEC’s efforts to progress with the times and adapt to the new reality. It is fair to say that the Bogor Goal on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation was the first milestone for APEC cooperation and common development, and the Beijing Agenda could obviously be regarded as the second and new milestone. The Fourth APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, held in Subic, the Philippines in 1996, was a meeting of continuity, building on past achievements and pushing for new progress, as it was held just two years after the Bogor Goal was set. This year’s meeting in the Philippines will be more so as it is only one year after the Beijing meeting. It will be an important step toward the “Asia-Pacific Dream” of building an open economy for common development, prosperity and progress. Proactive and continuous efforts must be made to achieve this goal.

Recent years have seen a mushrooming of bilateral and sub-regional free-trade arrangements in the Asia-Pacific. This is a good development in the sense that it reflects people’s desire for openness, cooperation and common development. On the other hand, there are legitimate concerns that these arrangements may become “exclusive” and “egoistic”, to the extent that some may give supremacy to their selfish interests and use their advantageous positions to maximize their own interests, at the expense of the interests or even survival of the vulnerable groups — an act that fails to strike a proper balance between justice and interests. The introduction of the Beijing Agenda last year and the efforts to implement it this year will be a good way to address such concerns. Since its inception, APEC has played a role as a tone-setter in this regard, and it is necessary, and possible, this time for APEC to play such a role in shaping an open economy in the Asia-Pacific.

As China’s APEC senior official in the 1996 Subic leadership meeting, I wish to emphasize that the concept of “APEC approach” initiated by China during that meeting was based on China’s experience and adopted unanimously by APEC economies, who believed that it was of great significance to the region and the wider world — and a brand-new model of international cooperation. The concept recognized the enormous diversity among APEC members, allowed for flexibility, followed the principle of voluntarism and consensus-building, pursued equality and mutual benefit, and encouraged member economies to work together to chart a strategic direction and strive for the goals through their own efforts. This is the unique feature of APEC and the secret behind its long-term success. The concept was put forward at the meeting in the Philippines. Over the past 20 years or so, it has grown and come of age, but still needs to keep abreast of the times and strive to contribute more significantly to common development, innovation and greater openness. I hope all parties concerned will care for it, respect it, and allow it to play a better and more important role in the strategy of building an open economy in the Asia-Pacific region.

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