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Policy: "The United States and APEC 1997"

BG9731E | Date: 1997-11-14

APEC, as most people know, was established in 1989 to promote economic integration in the Pacific region and to sustain economic growth. Today its membership includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, as well as the United States.

Some would say "Why discuss APEC now when the hot issues in the region and even globally appear to be finance and currency and not economic cooperation?" Why? Because APEC is more important than its stated goal of free and open trade and investment in the region by 2010/2020 for its developed and developing members, respectively. APEC is about building a "community" of economies in the Asia-Pacific region; and about building shared security, shared prosperity and a shared future for that community.

Some are saying the United States and developed countries actually welcome the current financial crisis in Asia. Nothing could be more wrong. The U.S. has fought three wars to help keep Asia free; our forward presence has helped to provide the security umbrella under which almost every nation in the Asia Pacific has prospered. Millions of Americans are of Asian and Pacific descent; thousands of U.S. companies are involved in the region and millions of American jobs depend on Asia's well being. We are proud of the role we have played in Asia growth. When Asia hurts, we hurt too.

APEC is about building relationships and understanding. APEC is about fostering the sound policies and wise economic practices that have propelled this region forward over the past several decades. And APEC is about addressing together complicated challenges and opportunities that will come in an increasingly interdependent world.

In his first term, President Clinton set forth a vision of a Pacific community based on a mutually reinforcing framework of "shared strength, shared prosperity and shared commitment to democratic values."

To ensure the security of the region, we maintain our forward military presence in the Western Pacific and our five treaty alliances. In the ASEAN Regional Forum, we discuss a full range of pressing Asian security issues.

To demonstrate our commitment to democratic values, the United States remains an untiring advocate for the development of good government, open societies and the rule of law in Asia.

Finally, to promote continued prosperity in the region, our economic policies have concentrated on accelerating the pace of liberalization and market opening in Asia. APEC is the most important vehicle for advancing those policies.

Through APEC we have created a framework where the leaders of the region's 18 economies can meet and share views on issues of common concern, where the statesmanship and leverage unique to the leaders can be brought to bear on the problems of the region. From Blake Island to Subic Bay, the leaders set out a long-term vision of Pacific community and the work plan to achieve that vision.

Up to this point, APEC's efforts have worked on two sides of the same issue: building the marketplace of the Asia-Pacific while at the same time ensuring that marketplace remains open.

This year, if we are to continue building the kind of Pacific community envisioned at Blake Island, APEC leaders in Vancouver will have to deal with today's immediate issues -- issues related to how the region's economies can adjust to their recent economic difficulties, pursue necessary reform, and get back on the path to strong, sustainable economic growth.

Six Goals for Vancouver

The United States is pursuing six goals in the run-up to the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Vancouver:

First, we expect the Southeast Asia financial situation to be at the top of the leaders' agenda. The U.S. Government has been making extraordinary efforts to demonstrate our concern and our leadership -- helping the countries of the region address the complex economic issues we all are reading about daily. U.S. involvement in support of the IMF program for Indonesia is a visible sign of that interest.

Finance officials in the APEC region are looking at how APEC can help promote and/or restore financial stability in Southeast Asia. But no one should imagine there will be some "silver bullet" that comes from the November Leaders' Meeting to solve all the region's problems. Improvement requires a steadfast commitment and demonstrated effort. That process of adjustment is never instantaneous.

Second, APEC is in the process of identifying sectors for Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalization. We want an outcome that is economically significant and one that contributes to growth -- infrastructure-related goods and services, for instance, fit this specification.

Third, we are committed to providing concrete results that make a difference to business. We want to move beyond seminars, dialogue, Web pages and databases. We want to use APEC to clear the trade underbrush -- find an idea, find some like-minded members and then push the idea forward. New air express techniques or a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to eliminate needless retesting of telecommunications equipment are two examples. We will accelerate work to build a network of natural gas delivery by combining government facilitation and business action, official policy and private practice.

APEC is not a traditional trade organization; we do not sit in mind-numbing negotiations. Our work is aimed at focused outcomes that increase economic efficiency, increase economic activity and assure more and better jobs, safer workplaces, and a cleaner environment. For this work, APEC can't depend just on government officials; there must be active private sector involvement. We have a three-part message for the private sector: "Get informed, get involved, get specific."

Much of our work is focused on APEC's economic and technical cooperation (EcoTech) side which covers five core areas including labor, capital, technology, infrastructure and the environment. If APEC builds the right architecture for economic cooperation, businesses will be able to take advantage of the opportunities trade and investment liberalization creates.

As a fourth goal for Vancouver, we would like to use APEC to build support for President Clinton's Electronic Commerce initiative.

This technology is new, but it is not a threat. It is the new enabling technology of the next century. Yes, it is something that benefits large countries and large companies, but it is also of equal benefit to small countries and equal benefit, if not more, to small companies because it enables entrepreneurs to compete globally right from the start. We think it is an exciting, new area. It's an area where APEC economies have a great deal to gain through encouraging the private sector to develop this important new technology.

We believe in the principle that governments should intervene only minimally to create a stable environment for electronic commerce. Let the global private sector take the lead. We have identified a number of issues, ranging from tariffs to intellectual property rights, which are vital to the continued expansion of this leading-edge industry.

Fifth is an issue right out of today's headlines: climate change and the environment.

Environmental threats -- as we have learned graphically from the terrible fires and haze affecting Indonesia, Malaysia and much of the region, and other more gradual threats such as marine and coral reef degradation, and global climate change -- threaten to undermine our collective future. These threats demand our joint attention, our joint commitment and our joint action.

Finally, each APEC member economy has put forward an Individual Action Plan (IAP) which is its road map to free trade and investment by 2010/2020.

APEC is built on the concept that each economy voluntarily will move toward liberalization, and that the competitiveness of the marketplace will ensure others follow suit. The result will be an open, integrated market where all participants benefit. The establishment of regional institutions such as APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum are the first steps toward the building of a Pacific community that will solve its problems as a community.

Ultimately, it is the soundness of this community, the commitment of its members to make it work and to share in the security, prosperity and values it has to offer, that will keep the economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region alive and expand it for all the world to share.

The Pacific community is real. And the United States will continue to be a vital part of it.

Thank you.