PECC Standing Committee Meeting

Beijing, People's Republic of China, 16 April 2004
  • Speech by Ambassador Mario Artaza, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Mr. Chairman,
Members of the PECC Standing Committee,
It was a year ago that I spoke to this Committee at your meeting in Washington DC. Then of course I was the Deputy Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat .
Now as the Executive Director I am most fortunate to have the opportunity during my two year tenure at the APEC Secretariat to address the PECC Standing Committee for the second time.
Last year I said that being at the meeting with PECC is like being with family, and that the APEC view of PECC is that of a valuable partner.
My experience of the past year in the APEC process has made it clear just how close the relationship is that we share.
So I would like to thank you for this opportunity to again give you an overview of the latest developments in the APEC process, to outline some of our priorities for the 2004 Year hosted by the Republic of Chile and to look at joint opportunities between PECC and APEC.
Since last April, the APEC process has experienced quite a busy period. During this time the APEC agenda was expanded into new areas that have an enormous impact on the regional economy that had not been a part of the APEC process in the past. In particular the SARS epidemic and APEC involvement in health sector issues have expanded our areas of responsibility.
SARS in particular was an important issue for APEC. Not at the healthcare and screening level, but as it relates to the economic impact of the SARS Epidemic.
In June last year APEC held its first Health Ministers' Meeting to look at ways to minimize the economic impact of SARS and to identify ways to prevent a similar crisis from occurring in the future.
Since then the terms of reference for the new APEC Health Task Force have been approved by APEC Senior Officials at their recent meeting in March. The APEC Health Task Force is expected to help economies to address health threats such as SARS and other health issues that have economic implications, such as the more recent regional health concern of Avian Flu.
Since we last spoke, APEC has also held its first Life Sciences Innovation Forum. As one of the most important sectors of what has become known as the Knowledge Based Economy, the life sciences sector brings together a broad range of research skills across many scientific fields. From telecommunications to biotech, the life sciences sector is all about creating innovations to improve the lives of people of the region. The first ever Life Sciences Innovation Strategic Plan for the Asia-Pacific Region will now be completed in time to be presented to Leaders when they meet in Santiago in November.
There is indeed a lot to be done throughout the APEC process before Leaders Meet in November.
This year around 75 APEC fora level meetings are planned throughout the region together with ten ministerial level meetings.
We have already convened the first Senior Officials Meeting for the year as well as the Second Secure Trade in the APEC Region, or STAR II, Conference, and our first ministerial meeting for 2004, the 4th Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation in Christchurch, New Zealand.
This year there will be a high number of APEC Ministerial Meetings with ten taking place around the region. Seven meetings will take place in Chile, and one each in New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines. These meetings are important to the APEC process as they provide the political impetus to deliver real results in very specific areas of industrial and economic activity.
The next ministerial meeting is the APEC Education Ministers' Meeting at the end of this month in Santiago.
This meeting will have a significant impact on many areas of APEC activity as a key topic at this meeting will be the role of the English language in business and trade in the region.
We recognize that this is a sensitive issue. While English is our official APEC language for meetings and discussion, all economies are proud of the language that is their own.
However, there is a realization within APEC that between economies English is the most commonly spoken language and has become the greatest facilitator of cross-cultural interaction.
To be successful in building a stronger regional economy we must be able to communicate freely and openly in order to accomplish our tasks in the multilateral trading environment.
The issue of the use of English language in the APEC region is likely to come up in several forums and ministerial meetings throughout the year as it affects so many sectors.
Areas such as the tourism and finance industries involve a high level of cross border interaction where language compatibility is essential. For Small and Medium Enterprises the expanded use of the English language opens opportunities to increase their competitiveness, expand their markets and source cheaper inputs to production.
Another area that will receive attention this year is the topic of APEC reform.
APEC reform is an important undertaking for the APEC process, not because there is anything seen as specifically wrong. However, like any major forum or organization, taking a look at how you do things and identifying ways you can do them better is important. We are a process of 21 Member Economies and thousands of people across our range of activities that has been developing for 15 years. I am sure that this process of review will reveal areas of reform that will make the APEC process more dynamic and responsive to the demands of the modern global economy.
Throughout the year as participants in the APEC process take part in workshops and forums, they will be aware of the APEC 2004 themes that have been developed by our host economy, Chile.
This year Chile has chosen the central theme of "One Community, Our Future".
This theme recognizes that our 21 Member Economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum are part of one community.
Like any community, ours is linked by a number of factors. While we are diverse in terms of culture and language, while at the same time we are a community with growing links and unity in terms of our investment and trade interaction, and in our social and sporting links. Our community accounts for around half the world's trade and is home to 2.5 billion people. As our regional economy strengthens and we will continue to expand business links and lower barriers to trade this shared future will become even more evident.
The central theme for 2004 is also supported by a series of sub-themes that serve to direct the activities and outputs of APEC's Working Groups and Forums during 2004.
  • The first sub-theme is APEC as a catalyst in the multilateral trading system. This is our attempt to create the necessary momentum in Geneva to revive negotiations necessary to conclude the WTO Doha Development Agenda.
  • Secondly, to further discuss the issue of Free Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements in the APEC Region. This is our call for APEC to undertake further study and discussion on the role FTAs and RTAs can play in achieving the Bogor Goals.
  • Third, trade facilitation focused on trade and security. This involves the continuation of work on APEC's security agenda, in particular, assisting developing economies to meet the increased burden that enhanced security imposes on them. The Second STAR Conference arrived at these purposes.
  • The fourth sub-theme, the development of micro enterprises involves strengthening the participation of SMEs and micro-enterprises in global trade. Part of this process includes strengthening the use of the English language as a working tool and increasing the number of English speakers in many economies;
  • Finally, the 2004 sub-theme relates to the international financial architecture and calls for continuing work to ensure that the region's economic prosperity is underpinned by efficient and stable financial institutions.
As we progress through this 2004 Year there will again be numerous opportunities for increasing APEC Cooperation and Collaboration with PECC.
PECC has been very clear in stating its support for Chile in its leadership role for this APEC Year. During this year PECC will be addressing a number of issues that have been identified as APEC's priority areas.
These include:
  • Discussion of the growth of Free Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements;
  • Support for the WTO process;
  • Trade facilitation focused on trade and security; and
  • International financial architecture.
The expertise that PECC has in these areas will be invaluable to APEC as we address each of these.
In the area of free trade, which is at the core of the APEC process, PECC and APEC share common priorities and this offers common opportunities.
We note that Free Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements will continue as a priority area for the PECC Trade Forum. It is APEC's understanding that PECC intends to take a further step in its analysis of FTAs and RTAs that will be very useful.
This will be through PECC's analysis of the range of options open to the region, from the current situation where there is a proliferation of FTAs and RTAs, through to the ultimate achievement of APEC's trade and investment goals. This analysis will be of great interest to APEC Member Economies.
APEC values PECC's contribution to the 1st SOM Policy Dialogue on RTAs and FTAs. We now look forward to PECC's active contribution to the 2nd APEC SOM Policy Dialogue on RTAs/FTAs to be held in May in Pucon.
With close to forty RTAs/FTAs in the region, it is safe to say that this process is here to stay and develop. We have to find ways to manage it constructively. To raise objections and obstacles would not be conducive to positive results.
APEC also noted the reports published by PECC on "Proposals for an APEC Common Understanding on RTAs", and "Asia Pacific RTAs as Avenues for Achieving APEC's Bogor Goals", which have contributed to a greater understanding of FTAs and RTAs.
Alongside our work on FTAs and RTAs, support for the multilateral trading system by forums such PECC and also PBEC is shared by APEC. In extending its support to the World Trade Organization, we understand that PECC intends to work with PBEC on a range of Pacific approaches to one of the particularly difficult issues, which is agriculture.
It is clear that the combination of the analytical skills of PECC and the business perspective of PBEC can make the contribution more effective.
PECC, like APEC, has great interest in the capacity and health of the financial architecture of the region. In addressing the same core concerns of APEC finance officials, PECC hopes to establish its Finance Forum as a major advisory input to the APEC Finance Ministers' Process.
PECC is also intending to submit output from its finance work program to APEC mid-term stock take. This is anticipated to help APEC in the deliberation of its long-term work agenda for financial and monetary cooperation among our Member Economies.
The stock take is an important APEC issue for 2005 as it is expected to gain an idea of how well the APEC region is progressing towards our free trade and investment goals. PECC has indicated that it is looking at additional ways that it can best contribute to this process. One method that is being considered is through the assessment of Member Economies' Individual Action Plans and other similar projects. We look forward to this collaboration.
Another concrete example of PECC-APEC collaboration is the assessment being done by PECC of the e-APEC Strategy. The e-APEC Strategy sets in motion the Action Agenda for the New Economy that was launched by APEC Leaders in Brunei in 2000. We now need an independent and objective assessment of how far we have progressed towards becoming knowledge-based economies and a digital society. We look forward to PECC completing this assessment.
The collaboration and other research and support from PECC are highly valued by the APEC process. We at APEC attach great importance to PECC's work and the substantive contributions that are only possible due to PECC's unique tripartite perspective and diverse expertise.
We have great optimism when we at APEC look at our future cooperation with PECC.
You are a valued friend and integral part of the APEC Family. We look forward to an ongoing and a most fruitful relationship with PECC for the remainder of the current APEC Year and into the future.
Thank You.