Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or better known as APEC, has grown into a dynamic engine promoting trade and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region since its establishment in 1989. This inter-governmental forum comprising of 21 member economies was formed in response to the growing interdependence of the Asia- Pacific economies, regional trade blocs and establishment of new markets during the mid-1980s. Needless to say, APEC is still a very much relevant bloc in today’s business world and exerts a significant influence across the global markets.
A milestone for APEC was the adoption of the Bogor Goals during the 1994 meeting in Bogor, Indonesia. The Bogor goals called for free and open trade and investment by 2020 through reducing trade barriers in the region and promoting the free flow of goods, services and capital among APEC economies. Coupled with the Osaka Action Agenda formulated in 1995 that developed 15 key areas to focus on, including tariffs, investments, customs and standards, member countries have made measurable progress in achieving these goals through the implementation of proposed action plans.
Some notable achievements by APEC are the promotion of regional economic integration and trade, expedition of customs procedures, structural reforms behind the border barriers and the introduction of APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). As a result, reduction of trade barriers between members, harmonisation of standards and regulations, streamlining and expediting customs procedures to enable goods to move more easily across borders; facilitating the movement of business people in the region and an improved business environment was experienced in the region.
The business community is also represented through the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the private sector arm of APEC. The primary mandate of this council is to advise leaders and other APEC officials on issues of interest to business. ABAC also responds to request from various APEC sub-groups for information about the business perspective of specific areas of cooperation. ABAC members are appointed by their respective economic leaders and represent a range of business sectors, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). For Malaysia, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is the Secretariat for ABAC.
The year 2020 is going to be a milestone for APEC member countries, and particularly for Malaysia. Malaysia will be hosting APEC once again, since the last in 1998. As Chile, the current host hands over the baton to Malaysia during the APEC Summit in November 2019, it will be a new phase for APEC, post-Bogor goals.
With the preparation of APEC 2020 underway, YB Datuk Darell Leiking, Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) shared Malaysia’s vision for the hosting the meeting, saying “APEC’s cooperation is beyond trade liberalisation and Malaysia will emphasise on people and inclusivity to foster a sustained increase in living standards as the main agenda for APEC post-2020.
”Our Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, also reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment to hosting a substantive APEC 2020 as the Bogor Goals comes to completion. He will be the first democratically elected leader to be hosting the APEC meeting twice. This is a mark in the history of APEC.
The APEC 2020 National Secretariat is pioneered by MITI to carry out preparations for the hosting of APEC 2020. Malaysia will be organising 120 meetings of various levels across the country and will be receiving around 16,000 delegates from 20 economies.
In fostering and facilitating this cooperation, MIDA supports MITI with initiatives relating to APEC. MIDA is the lead negotiator/organisation for APEC Investment Experts Group meetings, providing resource persons for international meetings, drafting inputs and assisting in building Malaysia's position on trade and investment issues negotiated. This includes investment policies and tariff matters such as the rules of origin to recommend for particular tariff lines. When requested, MIDA takes the lead in issues related to investments. MIDA’s International Cooperation Unit under the Strategic Planning and Policy Advocacy (Manufacturing) Division is entrusted to handle all matters pertaining to international cooperation.
Malaysia is expected to gain substantial potential spillover benefits economically from the hosting of APEC 2020, especially in the hospitality and services industry. Businesses will also stand to gain from the business matching activities, which is a platform to showcase their products to potential investors. Internationally, Malaysia will be in the centre of media, showcasing the country’s uniqueness in various sectors as an emerging market economy.
APEC 2020 will be determining APEC’s success over the years, the next step for the development of the region, and the beginning of APEC’s new era.