Ambassador-Designate Promises To Pursue Prominent Role for APEC

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has become the premier mechanism for multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, says Michael Michalak, President Bush’s nominee to serve as senior U.S. representative to the forum. 

Michalak appeared at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee January 31.  The Senate must approve his nomination to the post, which carries ambassadorial rank.

If confirmed for the position, Michalak said he would work to ensure the APEC forum's continued prominence in matters of trade, investment and economic growth.  He promised to advance U.S. objectives in the region, such as increasing prosperity through liberalization of trade and investment, strengthening security by reducing threats of terrorism and weapons proliferation and ensuring preparedness for potential pandemic diseases and natural disasters.

A career diplomat for more than 30 years, Michalak has served at posts in Japan, Australia, Pakistan and China, and in the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in Washington. 

Following is the text of Michalak's statement to the committee, as prepared for delivery

U.S. Senior Official for APEC
(Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)

JANUARY 31, 2006

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am deeply honored to appear before you today to seek confirmation of President Bush's nomination of me as U.S. Senior Official for APEC with the rank of Ambassador.  I appreciate the confidence that the President and Secretary Rice have shown in me by this nomination.  If confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and your staff to advance U.S. interests through APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

APEC encompasses a diverse region of critical importance to the United States.  The 21 members of APEC account for almost 60 percent of global GDP and about one-half of world trade.  APEC economies are collectively the largest trading partner for the U.S., accounting for nearly 65% of total U.S. exports and 65% total U.S. imports in 2005 (data as of November 30, 2005).

The APEC forum was originally established in 1989 to promote economic cooperation and integration in the Asia-Pacific region.  Today, the forum has developed to address important new economic challenges, which include countering terrorism, introducing measures to safeguard against infectious diseases, facilitating electronic commerce, and addressing the digital divide.

Last year was a very productive year for APEC and a year in which the United States advanced important objectives in the areas of trade, security, public health, and anti-corruption.  The Leaders of the APEC economies issued a strong stand-alone statement underscoring their commitment to achieve a successful conclusion of the Doha negotiations and their determination to provide the strong political leadership necessary to move the negotiations forward.  The Leaders endorsed model guidelines on intellectual property rights to reduce trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, protect against unauthorized copies, and prevent the sale of counterfeit goods over the Internet.  The Leaders agreed to advance the security commitments undertaken in Bangkok in 2003 by working to reduce the threat associated with man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS; strengthen control over radioactive sources that could be used to make "dirty" bombs; secure and facilitate the global supply chain within the APEC region from exploitation by would-be terrorists; and help APEC members develop effective export control systems.  The Leaders endorsed a strong initiative on "Preparing for and Mitigating an Influenza Pandemic."  The Leaders also agreed to intensify regional cooperation to deny safe haven to officials and individuals guilty of corruption; make the implementation of the principles of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption a top priority; and support the commitment on the part of business leaders to operate their corporate affairs with the highest level of integrity and sound corporate governance practices.

This year, the U.S. objectives for APEC are 1) to increase the prosperity of the region through cooperation in trade and investment liberalization, and focused capacity building; 2) to protect the food supply against deliberate contamination; 3) to strengthen regional security by dismantling transnational terrorist groups; eliminating the threat of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and enhancing measures to secure and facilitate trade and travel; 4) to ensure preparedness and prevention for potential pandemic diseases and natural disasters; and 5) to improve the business environment by facilitating trade, prosecuting corruption, and promoting market integrity and good corporate governance, as well as looking at Human Resource Development.

One of the unique features of the APEC structure is the formal involvement of the private sector.  In 1995, APEC established the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), which consists of up to three private sector representatives from each APEC economy.  The ABAC provides advice on implementing the APEC agenda and other specific business-related issues.  This year, I will look to strengthen public-private sector relationships within APEC.

One of the key areas requiring close cooperation with the private sector is preparing for and mitigating an influenza pandemic.  In coordination with other national and international organizations, we are encouraging individual corporations to develop contingency plans to ensure continuity of business, service and trade and to disseminate best practices guidelines for continuity of operations planning within the business community, especially among the small and medium size enterprises that will be especially vulnerable to business disruptions.

APEC has offered an important venue to display U.S. commitment to and leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.  The annual gathering of the Leaders of APEC economies, initiated under U.S. leadership in 1993, has become the single most important multilateral summit in the Asia-Pacific region.  It brings high-level attention to issues of regional and global consequence, and provides a regular forum for Leaders to meet as a group and bilaterally to address issues of common concern.  It also provides the only forum in which a majority of the Leaders of ASEAN meets annually with the President.  Last year, President Bush and ASEAN leaders issued the Joint Vision Statement on the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership, which called on the U.S. and ASEAN to further increase cooperation and friendship, and to seize the opportunities to meet the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world.  President Bush also had fruitful bilateral meetings with key leaders including President Putin of Russia.   

If confirmed, I will look to not only ensure continuing prominence of APEC as the premier multilateral forum in the Asia-Pacific region for addressing economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment, but also explore cooperation with ASEAN to foster a mutually beneficial relationship advancing key priorities for the region, such as strengthening intellectual property rights, fighting infectious disease and promoting good corporate governance.

Mr. Chairman, if I am confirmed with the rank of Ambassador, I promise to put my experience and enthusiasm to work in advancing U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region.  That experience includes over 30 years as a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service.  I gained extensive knowledge and experience in Asia during those years, serving as Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Minister-Counselor in the Economic Section for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and officer in Sydney, Australia; Islamabad, Pakistan; Beijing, China; as well as the Office for Japan and the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman, I would consider it a great privilege to serve my country as U.S. Senior Official for APEC with the rank of Ambassador.

Thank you for considering my nomination.