Thanks to their embracing of free trade and investment facilitation, the 21 APEC members, which include the world’s most robust growth engines, now account for 60 percent of the global GDP and 47 percent of global trade.
But the commitment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation members to their 1994 agreement to pursue the reducing barriers to trade and investment and promote the free flow of goods, services and capital — the Bogor Goals that have facilitated the region’s dynamism — has never been tested as much as it is today, with the beggar-thy-neighbor approach of unilateralism gumming up the works like sugared gasoline.
Although supposedly flying the flag for a rules-based region, the petulant me-first mentality on display at the 26th Economic Leaders’ Summit in Papua New Guinea was again a disruptive presence seeking to subvert efforts to foster a greater sense of community and shared development.
President Xi Jinping’s speech at the summit on Sunday was strong rallying call for countries to stand together and reject the take-what-you-can approach in favor of regional integration that promotes an open and rule-abiding economy in the Asia-Pacific.
It was a call for action to embody the feeling he evoked in his speech at the APEC CEO Summit on board the cruise ship Pacific Explorer on Saturday. “I was looking at the vast ocean when I boarded the ship,” he said, “and it struck me that we are all indeed fellow passengers in the same boat.” He encouraged those present to make the right choice — which is not between following this country or that country — but rather between cooperation and confrontation, openness and closing one’s door, win-win progress or a zero-sum game.
The choice facing the region and the world is a stark one: One path leads to progress, the other is a self- and all-defeating choice that leads back to the faultlines of the past.
Leaders in the region share a common responsibility to chart a peaceful and long-term development course for Asia-Pacific, as it enters its digital future.
The APEC leaders should continue to uphold a rules-based region and work to sustain the momentum of Asia-Pacific cooperation.
By forging closer relationships and jointly meeting common challenges, the APEC members have remained true to the shared goal of common development while respecting diversity and each other’s choices of development path. By continuing to do so, they can draw up a post-2020 roadmap and advance the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which will help realize a regional community with a shared future.