Cablegate: Engaging with the Apec Secretariat in Singapore

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1. (SBU) Summary: New leadership and a further strengthening of
the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat offer an
opportunity to increase engagement with Secretariat staff. With the
U.S. year to host APEC set to begin in 2011 after the 2010 Japan
year, there is a need for strong links with APEC to help shape the
development of policy. Although the Secretariat plays primarily an
administrative rather than policy role (or, as the new Executive
Director describes it, a "customer service" role), its role in
supporting the policy process, in particular through its research on
APEC issues, gives it the ability to accelerate and enhance the
development of sound policies. Embassy Singapore recommends regular
contact between Embassy and the Secretariat at various levels, full
staffing of the U.S. detail to the Secretariat, regular visits to
the Secretariat by Washington leaders and experts, and financial
support for policy research at the Secretariat's new Policy Support
Unit and the independent Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. The
Embassy will continue to coordinate closely with the USG-funded
Technical Assistance and Training Facility (TATF) in promoting U.S.
cooperation with APEC. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In a move towards strengthening and professionalizing the
APEC Secretariat, Ambassador Muhammad Noor Yacob was hired by APEC
Senior Officials as the new Executive Director of the
Singapore-based APEC Secretariat, taking office on January 1.
Ambassador Noor, formerly Malaysia's Permanent Representative to the
World Trade Organization in Geneva, is the first Executive Director
to be appointed for a fixed three-year term. Prior to his
appointment, the position was filled by a representative from the
host economy of APEC for that year, usually after serving for the
previous year as Deputy Executive Director.

Engaging with APEC Secretariat

3. (SBU) The conjunction of Ambassador Noor's appointment and the
upcoming U.S. hosting of APEC in 2011 gives the USG the ability and
the need to engage more closely with the APEC Secretariat in
Singapore. The Secretariat is an administrative organization rather
than a policy-making body, with policy driven by the 21 member
economies. However, as it can be difficult to organize 21 senior
APEC officials and because much of the APEC expertise resides in the
Secretariat, the support provided by the Secretariat is a
significant factor in promoting the development of policy. Experts
at the Secretariat provide counsel on APEC procedures and on
effectively utilizing APEC's range of working groups and other
sub-fora. Such assistance can be essential in pushing forward
policy initiatives.

4. (SBU) Embassy Singapore is preparing to welcome a new U.S.
Ambassador and we will be suggesting regular contact for the Embassy
with Ambassador Noor, who appears disposed to working well with the
USG. Ambassador Noor's six-year tenure in Geneva was reportedly
well-regarded, where he demonstrated a willingness to work with
Americans. In a January 29 meeting with Charge, Noor commented that
he found the direct American approach to discussing issues to be
refreshing and useful. Noor also spoke fondly of his experience in
the United States as a student at the University of Wisconsin and
Harvard University, and also of his children's recent university
education in the United States. He stated that "customer service"
was one of his priorities and considered local missions in Singapore
to be among his customers.

5. (SBU) We also recommend adding the Secretariat to visit
schedules of Washington visitors, including congressional
delegations as well as USG officials involved in work of relevance
to APEC. Regular contact with USG officials and Congressmen would
give the Secretariat a more nuanced feel for USG priorities in APEC
and other issue areas. In particular we recommend that the U.S.
Senior Official (SOM) for APEC spend a day with the Secretariat
early in 2010 to share ideas with Secretariat leadership and Program
Directors. The SOM could also constructively meet with the Pacific
Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), an official observer of the
APEC process and a frequent producer of studies and reports on APEC
issues. The Institute of Southeast Asia Studies is steps away from
both PECC and the Secretariat and its Singapore APEC Study Center
would be an excellent venue for a roundtable on APEC issues.

6. (SBU) The USG also has an opportunity to develop contacts with
the newly formed Policy Support Unit at the Secretariat, an
Australian initiative to provide APEC with an ability to handle
policy research and analysis. As APEC host in 2011 following the
2010 Japan year, the United States has a seat on the PSU's board for
the next three years. This seat offers an opportunity to discuss
the research agenda for this and future years. Since the PSU
started up in August 2009, the unit has produced research on trade

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creation, cross-border investment and supply chain connectivity.
Current research on APEC issues will help drive the APEC agenda in
future years. The PSU is funded through the end of the year,
primarily from an Australian grant together with nominal funding
from Japan and Singapore. If available, USG funding would give the
United States a longer term seat at the PSU table. According to PSU
Governance Arrangements, a board seat is given to economies that
donate more than US$400,000 to the PSU budget during the calendar

7. (SBU) In addition, to engage with the APEC Secretariat, the USG
should fully staff its delegation at the organization. Each APEC
economy provides a Program Director to staff the Secretariat and
provide support and coordination in issue areas. The next APEC host
is also expected to fill a Host Economy Representative position to
work with the Secretariat to prepare for the next year's meetings.
At the moment the Host Economy Representative position is vacant and
there is no known funding source to pay for the position. In a
recent meeting with the Charge, Ambassador Noor said the Secretariat
would welcome a Host Economy Representative from the USG and
encouraged the USG to staff the position well in advance of the
first USG-hosted APEC meetings scheduled to be held near the end of

8. (SBU) Finally, in doing all of the above, it will be useful for
the Embassy to coordinate closely with the USG-funded Technical
Assistance and Training Facility (TATF). TATF, located in
Singapore, is tasked with implementing USG-funded APEC projects, in
cooperation with the Secretariat, the Washington inter-agency and
APEC working groups, but it also has a mandate to provide technical
assistance and training to strengthen APEC operations.


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