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MFAT - APEC Leader's Meetings Media Backgrounder

APEC MINISTERIAL AND LEADERS' MEETINGS
Auckland, New Zealand September 1999
MEDIA BACKGROUNDER
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
New Zealand
September 1999

APEC Leaders will be meeting in Auckland on 12-13 September, preceded by the APEC Ministerial Meeting on 9-10 September. Ministers are responsible for bringing this year's work programme to a conclusion on the basis of instructions issued by Leaders in Kuala Lumpur.
They will take decisions on the key issues that arise from the work programme. Discussions between Leaders are designed to be high level, strategic and forward looking with Leaders setting out overall instructions for APEC work in the year 2000.

The Ministerial and Leaders' meetings represent the culmination of the APEC process in 1999. They were preceded by Ministerial meetings on Human Resource Development (held in Washington DC 29-30 July), on Trade (held in Auckland 29-30 June), on Small and Medium Enterprises (held in Christchurch on 27-28 April). APEC Finance Ministers (which report directly to Leaders) met in Langkawi, Malaysia on 15-16 May.

Two major business events will be held in Auckland concurrently with the APEC Leaders' Meeting. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) will meet on 11 September before delivering its report to Leaders on 12 September. Meanwhile the APEC CEOs Summit will meet on 10-12 September with several APEC Leaders and Ministers speaking at the Summit.
There will be two key areas of focus for both the Ministerial and Leaders' meetings:
* APEC's response to the economic crisis;
* APEC support for the WTO.
Specific outcomes will be sought in the following areas:
* Strengthening Markets.

This theme has been accepted by APEC members as a major focus for its work this year. It recognises the need to address areas of structural and regulatory weakness that were exposed by the economic crisis, and the need for improved policy frameworks and human and institutional capacity to improve the functioning of markets - including financial markets - throughout the region. Both Ministers and Leaders will hold discussions under this broad theme.

* Competition and regulatory reform
A major New Zealand initiative under the strengthening markets theme is a draft set of principles aimed at establishing a coherent policy framework that encourages competition and good governance. It is hoped that Ministers will endorse principles that have been put forward by officials.

* Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System
APEC's role in resisting protectionism and continuing to push for continued liberalisation of trade and investment in the region as essential to recovery from the crisis and return to sustained economic growth will be a focus of discussion. A new set of multilateral trade negotiations is due to start late this year following a WTO Ministerial meeting in Seattle in November/December. Officials will discuss how APEC Ministers and Leaders in September might influence those negotiations. Those discussions will build on the outcome of the Auckland meeting of Trade Ministers which agreed to support the inclusion of industrial tariffs in the WTO negotiations.

* Individual Action Plans
APEC economies use these plans to record their progress towards the goals of free trade and investment in the region by 2010/2020 agreed at Bogor, Indonesia in 1994. Ministers will receive reviews of progress made to date with IAPs that have been conducted by PECC (Pacific Economic Cooperation Council) and by economies themselves. In addition, Ministers will consider how the IAP peer review process might be further improved. Five APEC economies - Australia, Japan, the United States, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam - submitted their IAPs for voluntary peer review by other APEC economies in 1999.

* Trade Facilitation
Trade facilitation means making it easier for businesses to trade across borders and lowering their "red tape" costs. Initiatives under way include business-critical areas like mutual recognition agreements, customs harmonisation, standards and conformance, business mobility and recognition of qualifications. Ministers will announce a series of key deliverables in this area while both Ministers and Leaders are expected to set out an ambitious trade facilitation work programme for the year 2000.

* APEC Food System
A Task Force, co-chaired by New Zealand and Chinese Taipei, has been studying an APEC Food System proposal put forward by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) in 1998. The proposal suggests an integrated approach to food including rural infrastructure development, technology transfer and promotion of trade.

* Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalisation (EVSL)
This initiative, born at the Leaders' Meeting in Vancouver in 1997, identified 15 sectors for removing tariff and non-tariff barriers ahead of the Bogor time frame. APEC Ministers have agreed to transfer the tariff elements of all the sectors to the World Trade Organisation for negotiation. Discussion has been under way in Geneva for some time on the first eight sectors, now known as Accelerated Tariff Liberalisation (ATL). Ministers will hear an update on progress with the ATL, and discuss progress on the non-tariff elements of EVSL (facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation measures).

* E-commerce/Y2K
APEC's Blueprint for Action on electronic commerce set a target of paperless trading in the region by 2005 for developed economies and 2010 for developing economies. Officials will report on taking forward work in this area. Ministers and Leaders will also review the efforts under way within APEC to ensure Y2K issues are managed as smoothly as possible at the end of this year.

* Economic and Technical Cooperation
Discussion will focus on improving the effectiveness and coordination of Ecotech programmes. One specific proposal on the table from New Zealand aims to establish a 'clearing house' which can identify gaps between the infrastructure and technical assistance needs of some APEC economies and the capacity of other members to meet those needs.

* Social Impact of the Economic Crisis
Ministers will look at how APEC is responding to the initiative of US Secretary of State Albright in Kuala Lumpur in November to work on the social impact of the crisis. Priority areas include health, human resources development, food and jobs/employment creation.

* Integration of Women in APEC
New Zealand has co-chaired a Task Force set up to establish a framework for the integration of women in APEC. Officials will recommend a draft framework for endorsement by Ministers.

* Management Review
Ministers will consider recommendations on a number of means of focussing and streamlining APEC's management and structure. Suggestions include reducing the number of bodies, making more use of 'virtual' meetings and improving the coordination between the Finance Ministers and other APEC processes.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
New Zealand
September 1999


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