Role of PECC In Setting The Regional Agenda, Perspective Of APEC Official Process And New Zealand As APEC Chair

Manila, Philippines, 21 October 1999
  • Remarks by Ambassador Timothy Hannah, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
The last PECC General Meeting I attended was 10 years ago, the one held in Auckland.
That meeting took place shortly after the Canberra meeting that launched APEC, I also attended that, having participated in the prior informal official consultations among the 12 countries, or economies, originally involved.
I refer back to those two events because they bring to mind a couple of considerations that seem to me relevant to a focus on the role of PECC today.
First some of us were rather anxious to avoid that setting up APEC might weaken or marginalise PECC. This grouping had already, self-evidently, proved its worth in stimulating official thinking and policy on how to approach regional economic cooperation. It should be encouraged.
And in the event, PECC was given recognition as an official APEC observer, and has almost completely open access to participate in the APEC process. This even though, unlike the ASEAN or Pacific Forum Secretariats, the only other ones with this status, PECC has a non-official private sector, business and academic composition. Nor the same membership as APEC itself, and that is still the same situation today.
I don't think one should underestimate the significance of this status or the responsibility it places on PECC.
My second reflection is to recall that in setting up APEC, there was a fairly general sentiment against setting up a Secretariat for this new intergovernmental collective.
We weren't impressed with models and bureaucracies from outside the region and other organisations.
We felt it had to be the members who should drive APEC's agenda. It was governments that should dictate the pace and scope of our new initiative for wider regional economic cooperation. There had to be official commitment.
In particular there was no sentiment for establishing a Secretariat of the think-tank variety.
Again this has implications for PECC: in particular but not only PECC because there was also PBEC and other regional sources of support and ideas - PAFTAD, national studies institutes and later came ABAC and the APEC Study Centre network.
It is a competitive field, providing market-relevant intellectual horsepower and ideas towards building the Asia-Pacific community envisioned at Seattle six years ago. That is a challenge today for PECC.
So far, a ten year report card if you like, I think there would be wide agreement that PECC can take credit for a pretty positive contribution in many fields to developing the regional agenda.
Certainly in my own more direct experience of the past two years serving in the APEC Secretariat, I have seen PECC representatives make substantial and leading contributions to the APEC process an its outputs.
This PECC contribution both in overall policy directions
Mr Romulo's sharply focussed Asiaweek piece on The Business of APEC; Kerrin Vautier's key work on Competition Policy; Any many others - Issues Papers and the like;
Also in moving the agenda forward at the core operational level of APEC, in various Working Groups and other subsidiary fora, including Investment, HRD, Telecommunications, Services, E-Commerce, Infrastructure and others, as Mr Romulo has mentioned.
This year the IAP Review commissioned by APEC and the Impediments Study were important contributions from PECC.
As PECC Chair for 1999, New Zealand specifically sought to intensify consultation and collaboration with PECC, as the ABAC and generally with business, under the theme of "Broadening Support for APEC".
We believe this was well received and good results achieved. Examples of greater business interaction with the official APEC process included the SME Symposium, the Roundtable with Trade Ministers, Women's Leaders Network and reformatted meetings with ABAC and the CEO Summit. Bruneian plans for business interaction are on similar lines and may well go further.
Reverting specifically to the role of PECC in what we seem to be calling the new regional agenda, some concluding APEC-based thoughts.
One is that PECC's work for APEC on the IAP review and the Impediments Study merit more detailed consideration in each economy, perhaps through each PECC National Committee. This would be in part as a contribution to the ongoing peer review exercise that is gaining strength and also because ABAC and other business interests have been invited to put forward their views on the work programme on IAPs and the review of CAPs.
The door is wide open.
Indeed since last year the opportunity for outside participation in APEC generally, in Working Groups and other subsidiary bodies' activities, has been made much easier. This applies beyond PECC. In any case, I would like to see greater PECC local participation in such meetings that take place in different APEC economies. The calendar is readily accessible on our website.
Then also, the degree of interaction on trade facilitation was notched up during 1999 and the momentum should be maintained. With e-networks in abundance, these things are easier to bring together these days and PECC is rather well placed to give impetus to this work if it chooses to do so.
Whether one refers to the work done on Competition Policy and Regulatory Reform, the ongoing RISE project or other areas of PECC involvement in APEC or ABAC with the World Food System and Air Services Liberalisation, they all generally show how the business and academic communities can influence and direct the official agenda.
Now the attention should largely turn to implementation and what PECC can do there. Again PECC's National Commitees, which must remain robust, have a direct contribution to make.
My final somewhat related point is to recall that the CEO Summit in Auckland has proposed that business work on a model code of conduct for itself. This seems to me in line with the spirit of the times - not directing all your policy expectations at Governments or the official process to act on.
Not necessarily with this initiative, but perhaps there are other such areas where the membership of PECC could develop a role in progressing internal initiatives not focussed on action at the Government level.
A final comment taking into account the emphasis given to APEC's ecotech agenda. This is to note that the central budget funding for ecotech projects is rather modest, ranging from year to year between US$ 2-6 million only. Expectations must recognise this.