[Viewpoint] APEC a unique bridge between worlds

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[Viewpoint] APEC a unique bridge between worlds

An Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit will take place on Saturday and Sunday in Singapore. APEC was established in 1989 with an aim to liberalize trade and investment and enhance economic and technological cooperation within the region. Its 21 member countries include the four superpowers surrounding Korea. It is the largest cooperative body in the region, comprising some 41 percent of the world population, 54 percent of the gross world product and 44 percent of global trade.

Fundamental questions on APEC’s effectiveness, however, have lingered. Since its birth, APEC has made voluntary participation and non-binding decision-making its guiding principles. Decisions are made through consensus, with no way to enforce them. At the time of the 1997-1998 foreign exchange crisis in Asia, the United States tried to resolve matters through the International Monetary Fund rather than utilizing regional cooperative bodies such as APEC. Therefore, questions have remained about whether APEC would actually be able to contribute to resolving a regional crisis.

However, the U.S. view toward APEC has changed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and security matters have started to be discussed at the summits. Since 2006, APEC has transformed into an efficient regional body with power to implement its decisions. It appears that the United States has become aware of the importance of APEC as the only head-of-state-level consultative body in the Asia-Pacific region that includes the U.S. as a member. Furthermore, other APEC member countries increasingly believe that the organization should be used as a cooperative arena to work on global issues.

Reflecting this trend, “sustaining growth and connecting the region” has been selected as the theme of the upcoming summit. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has asked President Lee Myung-bak to give a closing statement on the summit’s first day in which sustainable growth will be discussed. It seems the prime minister wants to hear President Lee’s opinions on the direction the Group of 20 will take, since Korea will be the host country of the G-20 summit in November next year.

In a speech last month in the United States, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former prime minister and the father of the current leader of the nation, said President Barack Obama had declared at the Pittsburgh G-20 summit that the Group of 20 will replace the Group of Eight, and that such a declaration is a tacit admission that the post-war global order had ended.

With the rise of new emerging economies, the Bretton Woods system will inevitably see changes, and the Group of 20 will head these changes. APEC includes nine G-20 members; it also includes both advanced and emerging economies in various stages of development. The member countries are located across the Asia-Pacific region, making APEC the best regional cooperative body through which to execute G-20 goals.

As the G-20 chair country next year, Korea is in position to play the role of a bridge between advanced and developing nations. By making the best use of its peculiar position, Korea must actively and aggressively participate in the APEC summit’s discussions on creating plans for sustainable growth of the world economy. Furthermore, the upcoming APEC summit will serve as a crucial opportunity for Korea to build the foundation for successfully hosting the G-20 summit next year.

*The summit is a unique chance for Korea to contribute to sustainable development and prepare to host the G-20 next year.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Joong-keun

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