This year's CEO Summit attracted over 400 business leaders from across APEC, and more broadly from the Americas, Asia and Europe. Summit participants debated key issues facing the world, in parallel to the official meeting of APEC Economic Leaders, and they were addressed by many of the APEC Leaders who broke away from their own discussions to join in the lively series public-private sector discussions.
The 2004 APEC CEO Summit, with the theme "Succeeding in a Global World: New Challenges for Business", took place 19-21 November, in Santiago, Chile, on the margins of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. Unseasonal precipitation a few days earlier had crowned the Andes with snow, creating a majestic backdrop for this climax of Chile's year as host of APEC, and gave guests a taste of Chile's spectacular natural beauty.
Participants in the CEO Summit heard presentations from, among many others, President Ricardo Lagos of Chile, President Hu Jintao of China, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia, Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, and President George W Bush of the United States.
In addition to getting to hear first-hand of Leaders' visions for the world, these influential figures from business also joined in panel discussions and did some power networking. And if networking with fellow corporate executives was not enough, they also joined many of Chile's elite for a state dinner with the assembled APEC Leaders and Ministers.
So, what do so many private and public-sector leaders talk about for three days? Summary reports of many of the sessions are available at www.apecceosummit2004.com
and let us look at a few highlights here.
The Future of the Global Trading System
One prominent topic was "The Present and Future of the Global Trading System and Asia Pacific Regionalism", and the expert panel presented three compelling but dramatically different visions of how best to advance trade liberalization.
Stuart Harbinson, a Director in the World Trade Organization (WTO), argued for the importance of members maintaining their commitment to advancing ongoing WTO negotiations and strengthening the WTO as the institution to oversee the global trading system. He expressed concern that the proliferation of bilateral FTAs - as many as 300 by 2007 - are undermining the WTO negotiations, and argued that only a multilateral round could consolidate and rationalize these FTAs. He also asserted that what some have called a failure in Cancun was actually an important turning point. In Cancun, less-developed members adopted more assertive positions, which in the long run is critical to the sustainability of the WTO and the world trading system. Not only was this a positive development in itself, but the July package agreed in Geneva was better than anything that had been on the table in Cancun, and it had broader support.
Australian Trade Minister Vaile articulated the importance of competitive liberalization, as the sensitivities and levels of development of members affect how fast they are prepared to liberalize. Efforts to negotiate new trade agreements represent countries' desire to adopt a flexible, pragmatic approach in which they are not bound to move at a pace dictated by the slowest and most conservative. Minister Vaile stressed, however, that this approach leaves richer countries with a serious responsibility to help others with capacity building and ensure that poorer countries are not left behind.
The third approach was that of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). A study of this idea had been recommended by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), and Fred Bergsten of the Institute for International Economics and ABAC Chair Hernan Somerville argued this case. Bergsten argued that the risks and market distortion of an FTAAP would be far less than those associated with a network of poor-quality preferential trade agreements, that an FTAAP could reinvigorate APEC liberalization and facilitation agenda, and that the perceived competitive threat of an FTAAP would force the EU and other WTO members to redouble their efforts and reaffirm their commitment to the WTO.
Terrorism and Its Responses
Terrorism and security featured prominently in several presentations - by Leaders from Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United States. They presented views about the underlying problems, effective counter-measures, and the importance of coordinated regional responses.
Speakers noted that political stability and the orderly functioning of markets are in the public interest and the basis for economic growth and prosperity, and that terrorism is the enemy of development. They noted the costs to the global economy, such as on the price of oil, of any failure to ensure security and stability. Extremists should not be able to manipulate governments, so it is important to work not only on effective responses but also on the ability to recover quickly and contain damage to the broader community.
Leaders from Indonesia and Malaysia emphasized the need to understand terrorists' grievances and motives, that a comprehensive response relies on dialogue and improved understanding more than confrontation and security measures. Economies must also address the root causes from which terrorism arises. Steps should be taken to ease social dislocation caused by globalization and to reduce the gap between rich and poor. To ensure that liberalization is broadly accepted and sustainable also means that its benefits be broadly and equitably shared.
Participants recognized that terrorism does not have short term solutions, and espoused the need for greater regional coordination and integration, observing the difficulty of separately trying to combat terrorists operating in a global community. Another common conclusion was that the needs of security and commerce must be balanced. In other words, while security is necessary to assure safe, predictable, functioning economies, the introduction of new measures and the operation of security regimes should keep the private sector in mind and seek to minimize costs to business.
The 2004 APEC CEO Summit offered much more. US President Bush gave a comprehensive review of the challenges and opportunities facing the world today. Chinese President Hu outlined challenges facing China, and reaffirmed China's commitment to economic reform and continued opening. Citigroup Chairman and former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin gave a visionary tour of long-term global economic trends and prospects. For more about the 2004 APEC CEO Summit and presentations that were given there, please visit www.apecceosummit2004.com
If you are a business executive, and if this has sparked your interest, perhaps you would be interested in attending next year's APEC CEO Summit. The 2005 APEC CEO Summit will be held November 17-19, in Busan, Korea. As information about the program and registration becomes available, it may be accessed via www.apec.org or via www.apec2005.org.