OECD-APEC Global Forum on the Knowledge Economy

Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, 14 January 2003
  • Speech by Ambassador Piamsak Milintachinda, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
I would like to thank the organisers, OECD and PICHTR and the United States government for hosting this OECD-APEC Global Forum: Policy Frameworks for the Digital Economy.
APEC and the OECD have a long history of co-operation and share many similar objectives. Much of the recent work undertaken by the OECD on the digital economy has provided a framework for the development our own "e-APEC" Strategy. I particularly appreciate the opportunity this Forum provides to strengthen the links between the OECD and APEC.
This forum also provides an opportunity for me to outline APEC's priorities for the digital economy.
APEC is the major forum for Asia-Pacific Leaders, Ministers and officials to meet and set policy initiatives to ensure the economic growth and prosperity of the region. As this year's host of APEC, Thailand is seeking to build on the progress of the past thirteen years, particularly in the area of e-commerce.
APEC's experience has shown that the digital economy has a key role to play in achieving higher rates of economic growth and sustainable development.
However it is apparent that the benefits of the digital economy are not being shared equally. Throughout the Asia-Pacific and in all APEC economies, there are millions of people who do not have access to the digital economy. These are people who have the skills in their trade or businesses which have the potential to participate in the digital economy, if only they had the access.
The data from all 21 APEC economies reveals that more than half of the APEC economies have tele-densities of 10 per cent or less.
To address these inequities APEC has developed policies and programs that seek to overcome the digital divide.
APEC's current priorities to maximise growth and sustainable development include fostering more dynamic market conditions by reforming and liberalizing trade and investment policies. Facilitating programs and policy development to promote participation in the digital economy and human capacity building in APEC economies; and responding to the new security challenges and the need to protect critical infrastructure.
A number of our priorities for 2003 and beyond build on key initiatives undertaken in the past five years. These include:
The multilateral Information Technology Agreement which eliminated tariffs on information technology products.
Another was the E-Commerce Blueprint for Action. This initiative committed APEC economies to reduce or eliminate paper documents used in cross-border trade by 2005 for developed economies and 2010 for developing economies;
The Digital Divide Blueprint for Action was designed to triple the number of people in the region with internet access by 2005;
  • The e-APEC Strategy;
  • A Cybersecurity Strategy to prevent the criminal misuse of communication networks, and;
  • A commitment to Trade Policies for the Digital Economy.
For quite some time APEC had recognized the need for a comprehensive, forward-looking and action-oriented plan to maximise the higher productivity and economic growth available from the new economy. The e-APEC Strategy consists of three parts:
  • Strengthening market structures and institutions
  • Infrastructure and technology development; and
  • Human capacity development and entrepreneurship.
Last year 16 APEC Economies agreed to implement a comprehensive package of policies to reduce barriers to trade and investment in the digital economy.
This includes:
  • A long term moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions,
  • Reducing barriers to foreign investment in e-commerce related services,
  • Ensuring that domestic regulatory measures limiting trade in e-commerce are only undertaken in a transparent, non-discriminatory and least trade restrictive manner,
  • Participation in the WTO Information Technology Agreement, and
  • Fully implementing and enforcing the WTO TRIPS Agreement and World Intellectual Property Organization Treaties.
APEC is also undertaking a range of initiatives to reduce the cost of cross-border trade. An APEC Study estimated that paperless trading offers potential savings US$60 billion/year for total intra-APEC merchandise trade.
The APEC Working Group on Electronic Financial Transactions Systems, or E-FITS, is working to promote cross-border electronic financial transactions.
Ten APEC members have adopted the primary elements of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, or UNCITRAL, model law on electronic transactions.
APEC's Telecommunication and Information Working Group is studying business requirements for interoperability of e-commerce systems in the region. APEC is also expanding Mutual Recognition Arrangements for Conformity Assessment of telecommunications products and in 2000, APEC Telecommunication's Ministers agreed on Principles on International Charging Arrangements for Internet Services and Interconnection Principles. This agreement will help to ensure increasingly inexpensive access to the internet for Internet users in all economies.
APEC's policies are also directed at ensuring all sectors of the community benefit from the digital economy. APEC has invested considerable time and energy into promoting the government use of internet and online services.
To overcome the digital divide, APEC Leaders have also committed to ensure that by 2010 all groups in APEC economy have at least community-based access to the Internet.
APEC recognises that information and communication technology, or ICT, has enormous potential to assist economies to achieve specific economic development goals. ICT enables increased access to education and training services, the extension of additional health services to rural communities and offering social inclusion for all sectors of the community.
I expect that APEC will also contribute to the World Summit on the Information Society that will be held in December this year. Promoting knowledge-based economies will be a key priority for the 2003 APEC year.
APEC is also contributing to the development of solutions to a number of new issues which will be discussed at this OECD-APEC Forum.
Firstly, cyber-security is an essential part of APEC's efforts to counter terrorism in our region. APEC Telecommunications Ministers have endorsed action by member economies to combat criminal misuse of information technology. This also gives priority to work programs for the protection of information and communications infrastructures and networks.
As mentioned by Deputy Secretary General Schlogl, last October APEC Ministers endorsed a set of Voluntary Consumer Protection Guidelines for the On-line Environment. These are intended to protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive practices in the on-line environment.
Work is now underway to assist economies to implement these Guidelines.
APEC is also allocating increased priority to protecting private data transmitted over the internet.
A number of members consider that the OECD Privacy Principles may provide a useful starting point for the development of a global standard for on-line privacy protection.
I look forward to reporting back to APEC on the specific ways that OECD and APEC can take forward the outcomes of this Forum. I also hope that this joint meeting will lead to further opportunities to strengthen co-operation between APEC and the OECD across a wider range of areas.
Thank you