• Believe it or not, APEC is actually doing some work

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    Ben D. Kritz

    Ben D. Kritz

    FROM a public relations standpoint, the APEC summit in Manila this week has been a complete nightmare, only salvaged a little by the unexpected and amusing enthusiasm the Philippine public – primarily its female component – has shown for the ridiculously photogenic President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Canada. There is, however, more to APEC than meets the eye.

    It is unfortunate that the Aquino Administration’s hamfisted management of the meetings has dominated the local and even international news (the homeless story has been the only APEC story of any significance so far carried by The New York Times, for instance), because there is actual work being done at the APEC summit.

    What have so far been obvious to the public are, first, the nightmarish traffic the Manila event has created; second, what some people, not without good reason, are calling a gross human rights violation in arbitrarily locking up several thousand homeless people to keep them out of sight; and third, President Aquino’s simpering, self-indulgent blaming of his predecessor for all the country’s ills in his keynote speech.

    Having been forced to abort an attempt to reach my office for the second day in a row (after a Monday commute that made Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow look like a cake walk), I would like to focus on something positive for a change, and take a look at what this year’s APEC meeting is actually accomplishing.

    So far, the biggest thing to come out of the discussions is the Joint Ministerial Statement from the APEC Ministerial Meeting (i.e., a meeting of member nations’ trade, economic, and foreign affairs ministers) held on Monday and Tuesday. While almost all of the contents of the voluminous statement—25 pages in length, plus a couple of extensive annexes—are initiatives that have been hammered out in smaller working groups throughout the year and are thus, not really “results” of this week’s meeting, gathering them all together into a single roadmap and adopting them at the ministerial level turns them into official APEC policy, a plan that the 21 member nations will presumably strive to follow over the next few years.

    The Ministerial Statement identifies four overarching priorities for APEC, each of which comprises a number of specific initiatives. A detailed explanation of the whole thing would obviously not fit in this space, but in the interest of giving a public who is feeling more than a little persecuted by the event so far some sense of value from it, here is a brief summary of the highlights of the statement:

    Priority 1: Enhancing the Regional Economic Integration Agenda—The statement gives strong backing for the China-led Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), noting the progress in background work done so far, and setting a target of the end of 2016 to produce a comprehensive draft of senior officials’ recommendations.

    Somewhat surprisingly, the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has recently been completed and has moved on to the ratification stage, is not mentioned at all in the APEC Ministerial Statement, something that is sure to cause some consternation for US President Barack Obama, the TPP’s biggest booster.

    Priority 2: Fostering MSMEs’ Participation in Regional and Global Markets— This initiative, which is mainly the product of lower-level APEC meetings in Boracay earlier this year, is the least detailed of the four initiatives. The likely reason for this is that among the various priorities, support for small businesses is the one that relies most heavily on local action, such as implementation of the “principles of good regulatory practices” adopted in the 2014 round of APEC meetings.

    Priority 3: Investing in Human Capital Development— This priority is broken down into the broad topic areas of education, skills development, health care, and improving opportunities for women. Two initiatives in particular—development of an APEC labor market clearing house, and facilitating greater educational exchange—would be of great value to the Philippines if they can be accomplished.

    Priority 4: Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities— This part of the statement deals with climate change mitigation and disaster preparedness and response. There are several key policy statements offered here: An expression of support for nuclear energy development; a call for the phasing out of fossil fuel-based energy subsidies; a commitment to adhere to climate targets—whatever they may be—that are adopted at the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris; and support of efforts to double the share of renewable energy throughout APEC from its 2010 level by 2030.

    Crafting noble statements is, of course, the easy part; how well these aspirations translate into actual progress at ground level is another matter entirely. Because APEC operates entirely on consensus—although there are expressions of sentiment regarding strengthening APEC as an institution, it does not and will probably never have any sort of legal enforcement mechanisms—the success or failure of the initiatives developed depends entirely on the capacity and willingness of member nations to carry them out.

    ben.kritz@manilatimes.net

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    11 Comments

    1. This summit benefits to the Philippines may not be felt anytime soon especially for the ordinary Filipinos but whether you like it or not. The setting have provided and shown the whole world the best of Filipino’s ingenuity thru the invention of engr.
      Aisa Mijeno. Now we can all be ascertain that the world will be looking at Filipinos
      knowing that we possess the ingenious mind that we can be proud of. May her tribe increase. Proud to be a Filipino.

    2. If you believe at what the US trade representative (the longa manus of multinational conglomerates}, then, I have a bridge in San Francisco, that I want to sell.
      I only need a modest down payment. Interested ?

    3. November 2015: The TPP text of 30 chapters and thousands of pages was released on November 5. Read AFTINET’s short analysis of its impacts on investor rights, medicine prices, the environment, labour rights and copyright monopolies. See also more detailed papers on investor rights and medicines. More will be added as they become available.
      If you trust what comes out of the US trade representative… It’s a “parternship were the only winner will be the big multinationals, everybody else will be a loser.

    4. Fair comment Ben. Since the first hosting of APEC under FVR the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) expanded to around $300 billion by the year end from $82.85 billion in 1996. Many member-economies are becoming interested in what’s fuelling the growth of the country..

      What the APEC does is simply advertising our country through networking. Our country has been in the news in many countries and the world’s biggest stage for one week. If we take a look at the level of interest, over thousands of those who attended or 85% of them are from overseas.

      I like your balance reporting and this is good for our country.

    5. All these sound nice, but these do-gooders have been at it since the time of Magellan. Remember the Cancun summit in 1981? This and other summits are just another version of that one in Mexico 35 years ago. How have things changed since then?

    6. Aside from the cost of the event itself we have to factor in the lost revenue from folks such as Mr. Kritz who were forced to abort their commute yet did not have the option of working online. Then there are the misgivings of potential investors for spending their money here at seeing the dreadful infrastructure and a leadership refusing to see reality because it has the convenience of blaming its predecesor while being blissfully aware that such predictable behavior marks us as the laughingstoick of the region.

    7. For your information, Philippines is not a member of TPP. I saw in the internatonal news that Philippines is not included in this group. So what is the used of it. Our incompetent President doesnt know nothing about the issue and topic to be discussed at the APEC. It is about the economy , trade, environmental issue, unemployment, poverty reduction. But this lunatic president of the philippines DOESNT KNOW NOTHING… HOW STUPID HIS SPEECH WRITER…..PARANG SIYANG NAGSASALITA SA WALANG KATUTURAN.. SENSELESS TOPIC… OR INIIWASAN NI ABNOY NA MABUKO SIYA NG MGA APEC MEMBERS NA INCOMPETENT PRESIDENT SIYA NG PILIPINAS.??????

    8. Ho-hum…the standard geo-political bafflegab…

      But what WAS impressive was the refreshingly frank statements on China’s incursions in the China Sea .

    9. OK wise guy, do you know what’s written in the TPP ? I don’t think so, is secret.
      If Pnoy won’t sign it is just the classic case of the broken watch that gives the right time twice a day.

      • Yes, I do know what’s written in the TPP. And so would you, if you went to any website hosted by one of the 12 signatory governments — I used the the website of US Trade Representative office, for example — and read or downloaded the full text of the pact which they made available beginning about 3 weeks ago.