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1998 APEC Regional Science and Technology Cooperation Ministerial Meeting

Mexico City, Mexico | 20 - 22 October 1998
1. Ministers responsible for science and technology from Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Philippines; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and the United States of America; participated in the 3rd APEC Ministers' Conference on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation, held in Mexico City, Mexico, October 21-23, 1998. Representatives of members designate from Peru, Russia, and Vietnam; the APEC Secretariat; and an observer from the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council were also present. A complete list of Heads of Delegations attending the Conference appears as Annex 1.
2. The conference was opened by The Honorable Miguel Limón, Secretary of Education for the Government of Mexico. He conveyed the appreciation of the Mexican Government for APEC's vision in enhancing international cooperation in science, technology and education. Secretary Limón recognized APEC accomplishments in addressing human resource development and contribution to sustainable development, and congratulated the Industrial Science and Technology Working Group (ISTWG) for its achievements. The Conference?s Main Topic, "Partnerships and Networks: Capturing the Benefits of Innovation Across APEC," was emphasized as a means to improve technological innovation in the region. Finally, Secretary Limón expressed his best wishes for the success of the Conference proceedings.
3. The conference was chaired by the Honorable Carlos Bazdresch, General Director of the National Council for Science and Technology for the Government of Mexico. He reflected on the current political, financial, and social changes in the region and recognized the need for seeking new solutions through the development and use of partnerships and networks. He noted that such a focus on partnerships and networks is in line with the ISTWG Action Program and the "APEC Agenda for Science and Technology Industrial Cooperation into the 21st Century." He further noted that there are successful, functioning partnerships and networks within APEC, and encouraged members to examine the issues underlying their success, and their role in spreading the benefits of innovation in the region. Enhancing the flow of information, as well as improving understanding of the relationships between higher education institutions, and the public and private sectors, were mentioned as considerations.
4. The Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, Ambassador Dato Noor Adlan, reported on the APEC activities in the past 2 years. He emphasized the responsiveness of the Ministerial Meeting in addressing its task from the Leaders by presenting the "APEC Agenda for Science and Technology Industry Cooperation into the 21st Century." He also commended the selection of the main topic, "Partnerships and Networks: Capturing the Benefits of Innovation Across APEC," as supportive of the leaders vision for connecting S&T across APEC. Given the current economic difficulties facing the APEC region, the Ambassador also noted the increased importance of S&T in economic growth and development.
5. Keynote Speeches
With the shared vision of a dynamic and prosperous Asia-Pacific region, the Ministers reaffirmed the key role of science and technology, and innovation in sustainable economic development, and the unique opportunities for APEC collaboration in these areas. Ministers emphasized the challenges posed by the current global financial crisis, but they expressed optimism that a strong commitment to science and technology will help drive economic revitalization in affected economies. Priority was given to strong APEC cooperation in science and technology, effective collaborations through partnerships that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, ("smart"), and pooling of comparative advantages to increase efficiency. Ministers noted that the future lies in innovation and the intelligent application of science and technology. Finally, they added a strong human dimension to the science and technology agenda in noting the importance of science and technology not only to economic development, but also to social development and the well being of people throughout APEC.
Ministers described their own evolving science and technology agendas, institutions, funding, partnerships, networks, and initiatives. They noted the importance both of creating an enabling environment for science and technology development, and of incentives for investment in this area. They voiced support for specific ongoing projects through the ISTWG, such as those directed toward a sustainable environment and cleaner production, natural disasters mitigation and emergency preparedness, health and emerging infectious diseases.
Other prominent themes raised by Ministers included: (a) the evolution toward "knowledge-based economies," and further emphasized the enhanced role of innovation systems within APEC; (b) the significance of public-private partnerships in science and technology; (c) new efforts toward promoting public awareness and support for science and technology, especially among youth; (d) the value of information and telecommunications technologies to overall science and technology development; (e) the importance of participation of all segments of society in science and technology development, including women, men, young people and persons with disabilities. They recognized that information sharing should not infringe on the protection of proprietary information that is important for successful commercialization.
6. Open Exchange of Ideas on Science, Technology and Society
During a private luncheon, Ministers held an open exchange of views on current issues in science and technology. Issues discussed included: (a) the Year 2000 computer problem, and (b) concerns about the ability of societies to take full advantage of the rapid advances in science and technology and the consequences of not doing so. Regarding the Year 2000 computer problem, Ministers noted the urgency of raising public awareness of the significance of this problem, the need to assess technical links with other organizations, the particular vulnerabilities of small and medium enterprises, and the value of sharing information regarding contingency plans should problems occur. Other concerns noted included legal liability issues and the possible overreaction to this problem by the public. Regarding the rapid advances in science and technology, a particular issue of interest was the importance of enabling society as a whole to have informed choices about which advances are most appropriate to bettering their lives. Issues discussed in this context included: providing youth with appropriate skills for the future economy; considering stresses on society, such as major job dislocations; sharing information about technologies that are appropriate to particular local conditions, such as varied resources and climate; and the need to ensure participation by all segments of society, including women, underrepresented minorities, and individuals with disabilities. Ministers noted that advances in science and technology were certain to bring major changes to the global economy, and that economies not appropriately prepared could be seriously disadvantaged.
7. Main Topic
Ministers supported the theme of "Partnerships and Networks: Capturing the Benefits of Innovation Across APEC" as relevant and timely both within and among economies. They noted that focus on partnerships and networks will facilitate intellectual synergy and efficient resource use and shared cases that demonstrated these benefits.
Mexico presented the following suggested actions for consideration by the Ministers:
a. In view of the current global economic situation, it is expected that growth rates in the region will, for a period of time, be lower than those recently experienced. Economic growth will depend on achieving a balance between the accumulation of resources (physical and human) and their allocation to the most productive uses. As a consequence, future growth and improved quality of life will rely not only on increasing investments, but also on increasing opportunities to raise productivity.
b. To achieve the above, one powerful resource available to APEC economies is the creation of partnerships and networks directed towards discovery and innovation.
c. Accordingly, Ministers call upon APEC fora to consult and cooperate on the implementation of the following actions.
d. The sharing of information is an essential prerequisite to the formation of partnerships and networks. Ministers call for increased efforts to:
i. identify and share information about best practices for technology diffusion, and develop initiatives to provide APEC-wide linkages between technology networks among member economies;
ii. foster the formation and strengthening of networks in specific areas of S&T across APEC.
e. Policy dialogues among member economies are a necessity to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences on the effectiveness of policies towards partnerships and networks. Ministers:
i. encourage APEC fora, particularly the ISTWG, to continue to work with, and systematically engage, the private sector to participate in the policy dialogue, in particular, as it pertains to the assessment of constraints and opportunities for partnerships and networks among APEC economies.
f. People are both agents and creators of partnerships and networks. Initiatives have been carried out to facilitate mobility of personnel and to examine the barriers that may impede the mobility and exchange of human resources. Special attention is being given to ensure the full participation of women, men, and people with disabilities, and to increase public awareness of S&T activities, particularly among the young. Skills development in both the public and private sectors is also important in the successful implementation of partnerships and networks. Ministers call upon APEC fora to:
i. conduct further analyses and implement additional actions on the above human resources issues, including, in particular, facilitation of mobility of personnel, and increasing the public awareness of S&T activities, especially among the young;
ii. encourage the elimination of barriers to the fullest participation in, and contribution to, S&T by all members of society, with special attention to underrepresented segments, such as women and persons with disabilities;
iii. identify key skills necessary for effective innovation and assess the need for training in member economies.
iv. promote linkages among universities, public science agencies and industries to enhance the development of technologies and research training capacities.
g. If APEC is to meet its economic, societal and environmental development needs in order to advance its sense of community and increase the common prosperity of its peoples, it is essential to increase activities that contribute to sustainable development. Ministers call for increased efforts to establish partnerships and networks that:
i. promote cleaner production both to preserve the environment and to stimulate economic growth;
ii. foster the pursuit of new knowledge and the development of technologies for humanistic concerns, such as the better health, well-being and enriched culture of all segments of the population;
iii. disseminate best practices in natural disaster mitigation and emergency preparedness.
h. The proposed APEC Agenda for Science and Technology Industry Cooperation into the 21st Century recognizes that science and technology can contribute to the broad APEC goal of economic and technical cooperation (EcoTech) being pursued through various APEC fora. Similarly, effective implementation of the actions suggested as outcomes of this Ministerial Conference should involve various APEC fora.
ISTWG should take the initiative to improve coordination on horizontal issues in conjunction with the SOM Sub-Committee on ECOTECH where appropriate.
i. Recognizing the valuable accomplishments in APEC of S&T activities that have effectively developed and realized partnerships and networks, Ministers invite APEC fora, and in particular the ISTWG and the SOM Sub-Committee on EcoTech, to foster and expand this valuable approach by addressing S&T opportunities presented by mutual interests and priorities, within the context of innovation systems.
Ministers strongly endorsed and adopted these suggested actions.
8. Progress Report on APEC ISTWG Related Projects and Activities
The ISTWG Lead Shepherd from the Philippines briefed the Ministers on the work of ISTWG and the status of the 64 APEC ISTWG projects. The presentation was derived from the specific tasking statements made by APEC Leaders and Ministers since the 2 nd APEC Ministers' Conference on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation held in 1996, in Seoul, Korea. The highlights of the discussion follow.
  • Technologies for the future: Efforts to harness technologies for the future were addressed by the formulation of the APEC ISTWG Action Program and the draft APEC Agenda for Science and Technology Industry Cooperation into the 21 st Century.
  • Human resource development: Human resource development activities were discussed, including youth and gender issues. For example, the continual improvement of the AST Network contributes towards promoting the exchange of researchers; the surveys on barriers to the mobility of S&T personnel and public awareness programs in APEC identify S&T constraints; and the networking of R&D institutions optimizes resources. On youth issues, the first APEC Youth Science Festival was held last August in Seoul, Korea, with the next Festival scheduled in Singapore in 2000. Additionally, an experts workshop convened in Manila, Philippines, last March, identified key issues on gender in S&T.
  • Cleaner Production Strategy: A number of Cleaner Production Strategy projects were implemented in 1997-1998. They aim to reduce negative environmental impacts while stimulating economic growth by focusing on both sector-specific activities and cross-cutting policies and methods for cleaner production. For example, in November, 1998, the U.S. will host an APEC symposium of participating economies and their industries to highlight world class approaches in measuring industrial environmental performance indicators for improved economic development, industrial growth, and environmental performance in the APEC region. Also, Chinese Taipei has recently hosted a successful training course on cleaner production for the textile dyeing and finishing industry. The participating economies are planning domestic projects to implement aspects of the best practices shared at the course.
  • Emerging infectious diseases: The collaboration on emerging infectious diseases has resulted in an APEC action plan with a number of important specific projects endorsed by the ISTWG. For example, there is a project to examine molecular epidemiology of dengue viruses and an APEC telecommunications network for emerging infectious diseases. Additionally, this group is also addressing environmental health priorities (e.g., geographic information systems linking environmental monitoring to health surveillance data), as well as other health concerns (e.g., training in radiation oncology, collaboration on good clinical practices).
  • Emergency preparedness and disaster recovery: Joint actions on emergency preparedness and disaster recovery measures have successfully resulted in collaborative research on disaster mitigation, a workshop on seismic design and the retrofit of structures, and cooperation on earthquake simulation.
  • Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): Integrating SMEs into the work programs of the APEC fora in 1997-1998 resulted in additional work by the APEC Center for Technology Exchange and Training for SMEs and a workshop on access and diffusion of S&T research to SMEs.
  • Other issues: Some IST issues raised at the last Ministerial need further attention and will be addressed in the future. These include building public awareness of S&T, innovative use of global positioning systems, and exploring the need for a code of ethical conduct for research in APEC.

An overview summary of the IST Action Program as captured in the 15 th ISTWG Meeting, conducted through the APEC S&T website, is as follows:

 Priority Areas

 Total Number of Projects

 a. Improved availability of information


 b. Improved human resource development


 c. Facilitation of partnerships and networks


 d. Improved business climate


e. Contribution to sustainable development


f. Enhanced policy dialogue and review 




9. APEC Agenda for Science and Technology Industry Cooperation into the 21st Century
Ministers noted the importance of the draft Agenda for Science and Technology Industry Cooperation for the 21st Century which was called for by the APEC Leaders at their meeting in Vancouver, Canada in 1997. The Ministers viewed this draft Agenda as a key contribution to the advancement of science and technology cooperation in the region to achieve mutual economic growth and common prosperity. Ministers strongly endorsed the draft Agenda for presentation to the APEC Leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in November, 1998.
10. Mexico Declaration
Reflecting the APEC Leaders' vision of an APEC community thriving on the basis of dynamic industries and sustainable resources, and recalling the past deliberations of Ministers responsible for Science and Technology, Ministers concluded that promoting partnerships and networks in science and technology should be given high priority. They called on the member economies to sustain and further their support for S&T, and to cooperate through partnerships and networks as a means to share the benefits of investment and innovation across the APEC region. Ministers issued a Mexico Declaration identifying partnerships and networks as an important mechanism to sustain discovery and innovation, and to maximize the efficiency of existing investments in S&T across the region. Such arrangements allow participants to link their human, intellectual and infrastructural resources to address regional economic, social, and environmental issues.
11. Next Ministers' Conference
Ministers noted the value of holding Ministerial level discussions when needed to advance APEC goals, as well as to review key S&T issues and priorities in the APEC region. Ministers endorsed the 4th APEC Ministers' Conference on Regional S&T Cooperation by the year 2001. Ministers also called for a greater level of interaction with the private sector at the time of Ministerial Conferences, and for structuring more time for informal discussions. Mexico will be surveying economies to determine the next host and venue.
12. Closing Remarks
In closing, Mr. Bazdresch thanked the delegates for their cooperation and active contributions to the Conference and noted with pleasure the agreement and progress made on the key themes of the Conference. Ministers thanked Mr.Bazdresch for his invaluable contributions as Chairman of the meeting, and the Government of Mexico for its splendid arrangements for the Conference and its warm hospitality.