Asia-Pacific Economic Forum Fosters Sense of Community, Rice Says

By Melody Merin
USINFO Special Correspondent

Washington - The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is emerging as "the premier multilateral organization in the Asia-Pacific region” through its support for the freedoms of navigation, trade and exchange, as well as "the freedom of all people to live under laws of their own making," according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In her remarks to the APEC CEO Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 18, Rice stressed the importance of core principles that not only define a sense of community, but that “create opportunities for sustainable growth.”  America's vision of APEC is one that “transcends simple cooperation and looks to the emergence of a true … community [that spans] the public sphere and the private sector,” she said.

The secretary cited a number of steps the United States is taking to support this vision.

According to Rice, the top trade priority for the United States is to see a successful conclusion to World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda.  The development agenda, also known as the Doha Round, was initiated at the WTO's fourth ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 and has sought to liberalize trade and enhance market access for agricultural products, manufactured goods and services.  (See USA and the WTO.)

"[I]f you can get a Doha Round that is successful, that's going to give a tremendous boost to free trade," she said.

On free trade in general, Rice said, the United States is working to reach out to newly emerging economies like Vietnam and continuing to press for "openness of ideas and openness of markets."

Building on the principle of fostering trade, Rice stressed the importance of facilitating interaction and travel. To support this goal, the U.S. government recently recognized the APEC Business Travel Card, a program enabling entrepreneurs to gain access to visas, move through immigration lines and travel to the United States quickly, safely and easily, according to Rice.

“The United States of America wants to be open, open and secure, but open to a free flow of people, just as we want to be open to the free flow of goods,” Rice said.

Promoting a sense of economic community also requires promoting well-governed societies, the secretary said. “Just as APEC is increasingly recognizing that prosperity depends on security, we are also acknowledging the connection between development and good governance,” Rice said.  To this end, it is important for governments to follow and enforce the rule of law as well as secure intellectual property rights, she continued.

Rice also highlighted the need for economic communities to strengthen shared institutions.  For its part, the United States will be increasing funding for the forum over the next two years, she said.

Rice lauded Vietnam's reform efforts and noted that they have resulted in more market access, approval for membership in the World Trade Organization and normalized relations with the United States.  She said the United States looks forward to the day "when cooperation is possible" with Burma and North Korea.  (See U.S. Support for Democracy in Burma and The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.)

"So far, these governments have chosen to reject the path of cooperation - violating their agreements and isolating their countries from the prosperity of the region. But if the leaders of Burma and North Korea were to follow the example of Vietnam and the example of other [countries] who have overcome their adversarial history, if they make the strategic choice and take the necessary steps to join the international community, it will open a new path of peace and opportunity," she said.

"Together, we could then all realize the promise of a true community in the Asia-Pacific region," she said.

The current member economies of APEC are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

A transcript of Rice’s remarks at the APEC CEO Summit is available on the State Department Web site.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).