The 2006 APEC leaders' meeting will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, on on the 18th and 19th of this month. As usual, the president of Taiwan has not been invited to attend this event.
President Chen Shui-bian (
APEC countries or economies account for around 40 percent of the world's population, approximately 56 percent of world GDP and about 48 percent of world trade. APEC dominates all other regional organizations in terms of economic size. It organizes numerous events for specialists, senior officials, ministers and leaders in this region to discuss economic related issues every year.
The APEC leaders' meeting is the event that attracts the most media attention. According to the APEC international secretariat, major issues to be discussed at the summit this year will be how APEC manages itself and deals with the competitive landscape, how it fulfills its organizational goals and moves beyond those goals, and how APEC pursues sustainable development and growth through economic cooperation and enhancing human security.
The competitive landscape in the Asia-Pacific region has been influenced by major forces that include a proliferation of free trade agreements, deregulation of economic and trade policies, emerging markets entering global and regional competition, rearrangement of economic and business boundaries and the advent of advanced information technology. As a result, the expectations and behavior of people who live in the Asia-Pacific region are changing.
In a dynamic open system, APEC member economies ought to be able to find ways to maximize their competitive advantages. In response to the competitive landscape, countries have to seek strategic opportunities by quickly adapting themselves.
To generate strategic opportunities, APEC and its member economies need to recognize a pattern of opportunity, commercialize complex technologies, identify major driving forces and forecast world economic order. APEC countries should join forces to deal with the dynamic and competitive landscape, and most importantly, no one should be purposely excluded.
Regarding how APEC can fulfill its organizational goals and move beyond them, some have suggested that APEC should adopt a new model. They believe the original design may not be adequate. The goals of APEC can be characterized by its famous three pillars: trade and investment liberalization, trade and investment facilitation and economic and technical cooperation.
Due to the tremendous gap in economic development among APEC countries, APEC's decisionmaking process was originally non-binding. Adopting a new model indicates change. Are APEC countries ready for change?
An organization needs to specify its identity before adopting a new model -- otherwise, the efforts for change will fail to meet the needs of changing environments. An organization's identity is a combination of characteristics related to all stakeholders from both the supply and demand sides. An organization with an unclear identity has difficulty in managing internal and external relationships.
It is essential to place emphasis on the organization's identity because identity sets the boundaries for the organization to change. The identity of APEC is that APEC is a non-binding international organization operating on a voluntary basis. It is a fact that a huge gap in economic development in the APEC region still exists. The developmental gap is still as large as it was in 1989, the year of APEC's formation. Is APEC ready to lose its original identity and transform itself?
Finally, on the subject of sustainable development and growth through economic cooperation and enhancing human security, we need to ask what sustainable development actually means. Sustainable development defined by ecological economists is development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the opportunities of future generation to meet their needs.
From an economic perspective, sustainable development is the balancing of production and market needs with supply. Factors that can compromise this balance include the 1997 to 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the US, soaring energy prices and so on.
Since the inception of APEC, the organization has been looking for solutions to cope with these kinds of stresses. All these stresses were triggered by humans. The factor that hinders Taiwan's leader to attend the APEC leaders' meting is similarly nothing more than a human one. If APEC truly wants to pursue sustainable development and growth, such factors need to be addressed.
Darson Chiu is an associate research fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.
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