What Is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), is an economic group of 21 members, formed in 1989, with the primary goal of promoting free trade and sustainable development in the Pacific Rim economies. Creation of APCE was primarily in response to the increasing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies. Also, the proliferation of regional economic blocs, such as the European Union (EU) and the, now defunct, North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), encouraged its formation.

In the years since its launch, APEC witnessed numerous marquis accomplishments. They are fundamental in reducing tariffs, improving customs efficiency and closing the gap between developing and developed economies. APEC also combated climate change, dismantled terrorist networks, increased transparency and stimulated economic integration. Furthermore, the group raised living standards and education levels, and fostered a greater sense of community among Asia-Pacific countries, by nurturing shared interests.

APEC provides funding for approximately 100 projects annually, with around USD 15.4 million available in 2018.

Nations Comprising APEC

The founding members of APEC were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. Since its launch, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia and Vietnam have joined its ranks. APEC refers to its members as economies rather than as states due to the disputed status of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) refuse to recognize Taiwan because they claim the island as a province under their constitution. Hong Kong functions as semi-autonomous regions of China and not a sovereign state.

APEC's Actions and Goals

At a landmark summit meeting in 1994, APEC announced a lofty goal of establishing free trade and investment regimes in the Asia-Pacific region by 2010 for members with developed economies. The group hopes to achieve those same goals for its developing economy members by 2020.

In 1995, APEC adopted the Osaka Action Agenda, a program designed to facilitate business activities, liberalize trade and investment and promote economic and technical cooperation. However, progress on these efforts has somewhat slowed, due to APEC’s culture of making all decisions by consensus. While some decisions are in the absence of unanimity, they are not legally binding, by the member governments.

Official observers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Sub-Groups of APEC

APEC engages in multiple micro causes and has many sub-groups which aim to advance policy and awareness. Examples of these sub-groups include:

  • Gender Issues: APEC members recognize the entire potential of women’s participation in the Asia-Pacific economy continues untapped. As a result, the economic empowerment and inclusion of women are essential agenda items. An estimated 600 million women are currently in the region’s labor force.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: In 1996, APEC’s Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) established an Intellectual Property Rights Get-Together (IPR-GT). This initiative aims to ensure, through legislation, the adequate protection of intellectual property rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, administrative and enforcement mechanisms will help in this endeavor. AOEC bases its principles on those of the World Trade Organization's (WTO's) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and other agreements.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Most APEC economies lay along the Pacific Ring of Fire, where strong tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions present constant threats. The region is also vulnerable to tropical cyclone formations, including yearly occurrences of Category 5 cyclones, or super typhoons. 

    Real World Example

    In keeping with its tradition of educational discussion, in 2019, APEC will sponsor a varied roster of forums. These seminars, hosted by various member economies, may be viewed and registered for, through APEC's project database.

    • Best Coal Power and Cogeneration Plant Case Studies
    • Regional Workshop on Coal Plant Efficiency
    • Workshop on Digital Government
    • Integrity Policies and Corruption Prevention Mechanisms in APEC Economies
    • Electric Toys Product Regulatory Agency Collaboration.