APEC can be much more with increased action and binding commitments
APEC is necessary, but it needs to be rethought, made more binding and take more action to make it more relevant, according to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Aat Pisanwanich, Director, Centre for International Trade Studies, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
“APEC is necessary, but it has been 30 years. We need to rethink. Should it be adjusted to take more action, be more binding? It might not have to be an FTA, but more binding than just talk. I think that would be even more useful”.
Dr. Aat is not the only one who thinks APEC can be much more than a discussion space for world leaders.
With its original focus on promoting sustainable economic growth, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, more active follow-up would be something that would make APEC more fruitful.
Dr. Aat said that deciding whether APEC has been a successful forum is quite difficult, when whatever is agreed at the summits has no binding or specific timeframe, not like Free trade Agreements.
There are expectations that APEC might be part of a solution to the conflict in Ukraine, lowering petrol prices and the export of more grain and fertiliser, but Dr. Aat does not think it will have such an effect. “Why don’t we conclude the FTA? I think it is very difficult. It has been discussed widely in Thailand, especially on social media”.
He said a free trade agreement will be difficult. “There are two issues, because there are clashing nations in APEC, namely China, the US and Russia. There are three Chinas – mainland, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. The mainland and Hong Kong are okay, but what about Chinese Taipei? This becomes an issue. So, an APEC FTA in near future, even a long stretch of “near future”, is unlikely to happen. It is an expectation, but I think it will be difficult,” Dr. Aat explained.
So, should APEC still exist? Dr. Aat said it is necessary to keep it running, but it needs to adapt to become more relevant in a changing world. Especially in times of crisis, APEC should act as a driving force for constructive solutions.
“I don’t expect APEC to magically make everything happen. It should, however, be a part of the solutions to world economic and food crises and help untangle the situation”.
By Tulip Naksompop Blauw