The year 2005 is a key one in the development of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as it faces several unprecedented challenges both within and without the region, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER,
Speaking at the opening of a symposium on "APEC Under Global Change and Taiwan's Participation in APEC" hosted by the Chinese Taipei APEC Research Center, Hong said that Taiwan must pay very close attention to these factors and their impact on APEC's development.
Hong said that APEC has faced several unprecedented economic and non-economic challenges over the last 10 months, including the stagnation of the multilateral WTO talks, global terrorism, the spread of epidemic diseases, and also a string of natural disasters, including tsunamis, typhoons and hurricanes.
As a result, Hong said, APEC members have strengthened their level of cooperation in dealing with problems both within and without the region and have included more issues into APEC discussions.
At the same time, APEC has continued to reform itself, adjusting its administrative structure, distribution of tasks and missions, financial management, as well as an appropriation portfolio, Hong said.
More importantly, he pointed out, APEC is facing a serious threat to its existence as ASEAN integrates with China at an alarming pace.
Noting that APEC is one of the most important channels for reaching out to the world for Taiwan, which also faces a difficult diplomatic situation due to Beijing's unrelenting suppression, Hong said Taiwan should keep closely abreast of all the latest developments in APEC.
Fortunately, he said, Taiwan has actively participated in various APEC activities over the past year, including sponsoring or taking part in APEC meetings and seminars on development of small- and medium-size enterprises and the information technology industry.
"An important supporter of the APEC spirit and contributor to APEC activities, Taiwan must maintain a high level of sensitivity regarding APEC's position and functions and efficiently grasp all the latest developments," Hong said.
A TIER economist, however, said at the forum that the status of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is not expected to be eclipsed by the emerging regionalism in Asia immediately.
Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣), a TIER researcher, said the trade complementary index compiled by the World Bank in October, 2003, shows that the index among the newly developed economies in Southeast Asia has increased from 51.2 in 1985 to 67.3 in 2003, which indicates a greater growth pace and a greater interdependence than that of the EU and the North American Free Trade Zone.
Chiang said that thanks to China's rapid economic growth, Southeast Asia has transformed into a diversified and dynamic economic region, which in turn has led to vociferous calls for the establishment of trade blocs via free trade pacts, as well as the emergence of regionalism.
The regionalism that came along with the formation of trade blocs, however, will not threaten APEC because of the wide variety of culture, society and economic development among countries in the region, as well as hostility between the countries, he said.
Furthermore, Chiang claimed, no country in the region can provide leadership for other countries in the region, which makes it impossible for any trade blocs in this region to replace APEC in the foreseeable future.
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