We believe history will judge the eighth APEC Economic Leaders Meeting held in Brunei Darussalam Nov. 15-16 an important milestone in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s mission to create a peaceful, prosperous and open Pacific community. The Brunei meeting saw three “firsts” for APEC.
* The Brunei Leaders Meeting was the first “IT summit” where both developed and developing economies pledged to put in place policies and programs to prosper in the New Economy.
* The Brunei summit was the first formal gathering of APEC leaders since the failure to launch a new round of trade negotiations in Seattle last December. Significantly, leaders took advantage of that opportunity to commit them to support launch of the new round in 2001 and engage in concrete discussions on how to do that.
* The Brunei meeting also marked the first APEC Leaders Meeting that directly took on the issue of high oil prices, committing themselves to addressing the problem of vulnerability to oil-price volatility and to strengthening energy security in the region.
APEC is home to some of the most wired, developed economies on Earth, to fast-moving emerging economies who are quickly adopting new information technologies, and to poor economies with little infrastructure and limited skills. That variety gives APEC a unique perspective and understanding of both the tremendous opportunities that the New Economy offers as well as the severe challenges we face in converting the digital divide into digital opportunity.
In Brunei, leaders eschewed platitudes for concrete programs to promote competition and investment, to provide skills training, and to enhance access to the Internet for all our citizens.
Japan, for example, announced that a significant portion of the comprehensive cooperation package to address the digital divide (which was announced before the Kyushu-Okinawa G8 summit with a view to extending a total of $15 billion) will be mobilized in the APEC economies. The United States announced new Internet-related assistance programs in Indonesia and Vietnam. Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and others also proposed real programs to address real problems.
Leaders acknowledged that this was just a start on the long road to meeting their goal of universal access to the Internet by 2010, but it is an impressive start by any calculation.
Similarly, APEC made real progress on trade as well. The U.S. and Japan, joined by other APEC economies, successfully persuaded skeptical APEC colleagues that 2001 is indeed a realistic goal for launch of the new round of trade talks. Discussion by ministers and leaders addressed concrete issues of how to start the talks and how to build an agenda acceptable to all.
The U.S. and others strongly supported Japan’s leadership in coordinating and providing assistance to APEC’s developing members to build their capacity to implement WTO commitments. This will help them be more responsible and active participants in the world trading system. Japan and the U.S. also teamed up with other APEC economies to support creation of an ad hoc task force to consider how WTO rules can apply to e-commerce, a critical task for the trading system in the 21st century.
Finally, the U.S. and Japan worked closely on the matter of energy security, including the support for the Thai initiative to strengthen and accelerate APEC’s activities in the energy area. APEC made an unequivocal statement expressing concern about the impact of high oil prices on recovery prospects in the region and agreed to address the problem of the region’s vulnerability to oil-price volatility, by such programs as one to promote and share information regarding conservation, alternative fuels, and oil stockpiling.
This article may be another “first” — the first time two officials of the U.S. and Japanese governments have jointly written an editorial piece for the press. That should come as no surprise, however. Although our two nations have had differences in some specific areas in APEC, due to our shared goals and objectives for APEC, a close working relationship is by far the norm. U.S.-Japan cooperation in areas such as e-commerce, WTO capacity-building, improving legal infrastructure, the environment, energy security, and education contributed to a successful outcome at the Brunei Leaders meeting. We look forward to continuing that cooperation next year to help make China’s chairmanship of APEC equally successful.
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