The APEC annual summit took place on the island of Bali (Indonesia) in early October. The APEC encompasses 21 states situated in Asia, Australia, South and North America. The goal has never changed since the foundation; it is the economic and commercial liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region. With over 20 summits behind, the rhetoric is forever the same saying economic growth is impossible without fostering export, providing free access to outside markets for transnational corporations as well as relentless fight against protectionism. The longer the global crisis lasts, the less convincing it sounds… The search for new guidelines for APEC is reflected in the agenda offered by Indonesia – the host country.
The first out of three items does not stand out as something unusual at first glance: it states that the so called Bogor Goals are still acute and remain effective to implement gradual and planned lowering of trade barriers in the Asia-Pacific till 2020 according to decisions taken at the Bogor summit (Bogor, Indonesia, 1994). The stated goal has become a kind of trade mark for APEC. With the due courtesy done, the host country remembered that according to the existing agreements every participant sticks to its own liberalization schedule taking into consideration the specific features of individual state.
«Sustainable and inclusive growth» is offered as a priority goal by Indonesia. It does not sound like anything new at first too, but the substantiation is far from being characteristic for the usual APEC style.
Indonesian Deputy Finance Minister Mahendra Siregar elaborates that the crisis has encompassed the markets of developed countries making some Asia-Pacific economies unstable due to the very same reason that had been considered to be an advantage before – the export orientation. The reliance on export does not lead to balanced progress of all branches of national industry causing social inequality – a factor that spurs instability. The solution lies in more even distribution of income, raising the income of the poor, boosting internal markets and opening new opportunities for economic progress thanks to growing internal consumer demand.
Besides that, according to Indonesia, connectivity is an important reserve to be used for spurring trade, investments and economic development of the region. The English term is taken from computer language. In relation to economy it means a number of measures to boost and diversify the interaction between regulators and market entities – from building and enhancing material infrastructure to logistical innovations, easing visa regimes, cooperating in management personnel training etc. The theme has already been highlighted by key documents defining the guidelines for ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), in particular the 2010 Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, so the stage for the Indonesian initiative is already set.
All these steps are nothing more than just an attempt to have the traditional APEC agenda added by the provisions that could make it less dogmatic and more responsive to contemporary needs. Is there a chance the proposals put forward by Indonesia will be endorsed by other APEC members? I believe there is, at least talking about the previous APEC chair and host country – Russia, or China which is to be the next host in 2014. I don’t see any reason why these three large and influential states should not tackle the issue of upgrading the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation agenda adding the «Bali Tunes» to the «Bogor Goals».
Victor Sumsky holds a Ph.D. in history and is the director of the ASEAN Center at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) under the Russian Foreign Ministry