Statement at 11th Conference of the ICFTU/APLN

Seoul, Korea, 13 November 2005
  • Speech by Ambassador Choi Seok-Young, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
Mr. Lee Yong Deuk, President of FKTU,
Guy Ryder, ICFTU General Secretary
Mr. Noriyuki Suzuki, ICFTU-APRO General Secretary
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
At the outset, I would like to thank the ICFTU leadership for inviting me today to address the 11th Conference of ICFTU. It is indeed an honour for myself to provide the participants with an overview of APEC developments in 2005, especially as we are gathered here just as the APEC Ministerial Meeting and APEC Economic Leaders Meetings are about to begin in Busan.
As we approach the close of the Republic of Korea's hosting of the APEC process, and having just come from the Concluding Senior Officials Meeting, I would like to present you the achievements and potential deliverables of APEC 2005.
2005 Highlights
Activities of the current APEC Year have revolved around the theme of "Toward One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change." This theme seeks to reassert APEC's collective will to build upon what we have achieved in previous years, and to take bold steps to achieve the vision we hold for our regional Community.
Guided by this theme, several major APEC events have been held in Korea and around the region. This year alone, APEC has held seven sectoral ministerial meetings covering the responsibilities of trade, telecommunications, small and medium enterprises, oceans, finance, energy, and mining.
Within the main APEC process which is overseen by the Senior Officials Meetings, there are several important deliverables. I would like to give you a brief overview of some of these issues that are of great importance for the success of APEC 2005. They are categorized broadly three areas such as trade and investment liberalization, human securities and APEC reform.
First, a key issue for 2005 has been APEC's input to advancing the current round of the World Trade Organization's Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations. APEC attaches great importance to the successful preparations for the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting to be held in Hong Kong in December this year, and its contribution to the advancement of the WTO/DDA negotiations. The MRT held in June in Jeju provided useful input to the DDA process by making a bold commitment to introduce deeper tariff cuts for non-agricultural goods. The APEC Leaders are supposed to adopt a standalone statement on WTO/DDA negotiations in order to give strong political inputs to the DDA negotiations.
Second, Free Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements, or FTAs and RTAs, have become an integral part of our joint undertaking to achieve the Bogor Goals. Our region has witnessed the proliferation of FTAs and RTAs, and acknowledges the concerns that these agreements may undermine the multilateral liberalization process. To address these concerns and to build on the progress made last year to introduce the best practice of FTAs and RTAs, APEC members this year are working towards the formulation of model facilitation clauses.
Third, the year 2005 is important in APEC's evolution process as it marks the mid-point between 1989, the year APEC was created, and 2020, the year of the completion of the Bogor Goals. It is an enormous task to take stock of the progress towards the Bogor Goals but this has been an important issue throughout the year. The draft report that has been prepared on the Mid-term Stocktake highlights APEC's achievements to date and sets a roadmap for the years ahead. This Mid-term Stocktake will become one of the most important outcomes of APEC 2005.
Fourth, the ongoing task of confronting terrorism in our region remains one of the major issues for APEC in 2005. The recent attacks in Bali have again brought home the importance of vigilance and preparedness in dealing with the terrorist threat. We anticipate that Leaders will pay particular attention to the ongoing work of the APEC Counter Terrorism Task Force and the other counter-terrorism efforts taking place around the APEC process.
Fifth, the threat of an Avian Influenza pandemic is shaping up to be considerably important for APEC this year. The prospect of millions of fatalities around the world if, the bird-flu mutates and is transmitted between humans is of great concern to our region. Preparations are underway for the implementation of collective action emergency response strategies to deal with health threats, natural disasters and other emergence situations.
Lastly, another important subject this year is APEC reform and financial sustainability. Faced with the call for increased efficiency in the work of the APEC process, Senior Officials have sought reform in three key areas. These are ensuring financial sustainability, strengthening economic and technical cooperation, or ECOTECH activities and enhancing the efficient coordination of APEC activities. Thanks to hard work by the Senior Officials, Member Economies have reached consensus to increase their contribution from 2007, to empower the ECOTECH Committee and to strengthen the project approval process.
In addition to these areas, the year 2005 will mark significant progress in the institutionalization of anti-corruption actions, counterfeit and anti-piracy actions, economic and technical cooperation and cross cultural communications.
Labour Issues
Within the APEC process, labour issues are primarily handled within the Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG) which was created in 1990. The HRDWG mandate is guided by an Annual Workplan that is based on several points of reference, including the priorities of leaders, ministers and senior officials, the host economy, and guidelines contained in the Osaka Action Agenda among others.
Within this working group, it has further divided its work and is discussed in the context of three (3) separate networks - the Capacity Building Network; the Education Network; and the Labour and Social Protection Network.
The focus of this third network on Labour and Social Protection is perhaps closest to the interests of the ICFTU. Its discussions are aimed to foster human capacity building, social integration and adaptable labour markets, and are achieved through the development of useful labor market information and policies, improved workplace conditions and practices, and strong social safety nets. Current discussions within the Network include items on vocational training, mutual recognition of qualifications, child labor, older workforce, skilled migration, and gender issues.
HRDWG's past projects of interest include a Labor-Managemen- Government symposium on "Responding to Change in the Workplace: Innovations in Labor-Management-Government Cooperation" held in 2001, and a resulting "Best Practices Toolkit" which lists the successful practices in workplaces throughout the APEC region.
With regard to social safety net capacity building, the HRDWG works closely with a separate Social Safety Net Capacity Building Network (SSN CBN), which is a SOM Special Task Group that was created in 2002 and is mandated to address the social dimension of globalization through capacity building activities. The SSN CBN has conducted several important projects in this regard, such as the April 2004 "2nd International Meeting of Experts on Social Safety Nets" held in Bangkok, and the "APEC High-Level Seminar on Social Safety Nets: Social Protection of the Vulnerable Group in a Changing World" held in Shenyang, China in the same year.
The Way Forward
Given my presentation today and based on the experiences of the past few years, you are all aware of the dynamics behind the discussions of labour issues within APEC fora.
I think that meetings with representatives of host economy and inviting the Executive Director of APEC Secretariat to participate in your conferences would be a due step to increase interaction with APEC process. I am sure that your organizations will build upon this foundation, as you continue to pursue your objectives alongside the APEC process.
Thank you