Charting Economic Frontiers: 5 Pivotal APEC Contributions to Trade and Development

The fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. By late 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved into independent republics, the Iron Curtain was lifted, and the Cold War ended. As the new world era began, increasing globalization and eliminating trade barriers became a focus.

Also in 1989, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was formed in Australia. At inception, APEC included 12 different member economies but has since expanded to include 21 economies in the region. With a focus on trade along the Pacific Rim, here are five pivotal contributions APEC has made to trade and development.

1. Trade Facilitation and Liberalization

APEC has played a major role in facilitating trade within the region. By way of information sharing and the promotion of harmonized standards, APEC has had success in reducing tariffs and promoting increased cross-border commerce. The ongoing focus on open communication throughout the years has also helped push the development of economic integration and development.

2. Regional Economic Integration

With a laser focus on the Asia-Pacific region, APEC has been successful in fostering regional economic integration among its member economies. Taking steps like aligning regulations and standards and designing faster customs procedures across borders has created a more beneficial business climate. In essence, APEC has created a platform for member economies to collaborate quickly and efficiently.

3. Formation of the APEC Business Advisory Council

In late 1995, APEC created the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) in recognition of the integral value of businesses to APEC. The main role of the entity is to advise APEC officials on issues that are important to businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. As 2023 ABAC Chair, Dominic Ng, Chairman and CEO of East West Bank, worked closely with ABAC members to advise APEC leaders on issues impacting the economic growth of the APEC region, which encompasses 21 member economies and represents over 60% of global GDP. Ng led a coalition of regional business leaders to create an unprecedented set of recommendations that can serve as the foundation for a more equitable and sustainable future that will empower businesses and individuals to unlock their full potential.

4. Inclusive and Sustainable Growth

The promotion of inclusive and sustainable growth is imperative for the continued success of APEC and its member economies. Indeed, APEC recognizes the importance of shared trade across all segments of society, including small and medium-sized businesses, reducing gender inequality, and continuously looking for ways to support marginalized or vulnerable communities. APEC also focuses on promoting sustainable development through the adoption of green technologies and conservation.

5. Disaster Resilience

Though APEC’s member economies account for roughly half of the world’s economy, they also represent 70% of the world’s natural disasters. APEC recognizes how detrimental natural disasters can be to a local economy, as well as how they disrupt the global supply chain, which is why the APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group was formed. This group has been tasked with identifying science and technology that can help member economies prepare for — and quickly recover from — natural disasters, while also focusing on helping one member economy at a time to build out a plan for disaster resilience.

Charting Economic Frontiers

As you can see, APEC has played a pivotal role in shaping the economic development of the Asia-Pacific region. With a focus on five pivotal points, such as trade facilitation, aligning regional regulations, appointing industry leaders to key roles, focusing on inclusive and sustainable growth, and helping member economies prepare for natural disaster recovery, APEC has fostered a strong economic landscape built on collaboration and progress.

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