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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3304

Senator LOOSLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the conference of APEC leaders in Seattle which has just concluded. What outcomes were of particular significance to Australia? Does the government regard the APEC initiative as having been successful? What evaluation might reasonably be made at this time?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It must be said that APEC, in both the ministerial meeting and the leaders' meeting which occurred over the weekend, was an absolutely outstanding success from any perspective, including—one would hope—that of the opposition in this country. There were at least seven major achievements from that meeting that I will enumerate quickly in explanation of that judgment.

  Firstly, there was the mere holding of the meeting—the chemistry of its conduct which, on any view, on every account, was outstanding—and associated with that the decision to hold another meeting next year in Indonesia. Personal relationships and confidence building of this kind are a very necessary prelude to effective policy making. This simple aspect of the occasion, despite the cynicism which we are hearing already from those on the other side, simply cannot be overstated. In that respect, if nothing else, Mr Keating's judgment about initiating this would have been vindicated.

  The second point is the terms of the vision statement itself and the commitment that entailed—that explicitly embraced—to a collective, self-conscious role by what was described as `the community of Asia Pacific economies'. In particular, the goal that was spelt out in that vision statement was a commitment to freer global and regional trade.

  The third thing which was a crucial outcome and which contributed to its success was the very explicit statement by the leaders themselves, and even more explicit statements coming from the ministers on the Uruguay Round—the commitment to the successful conclusion of that round, combined with some very specific proposals about market access, which no doubt Senator Cook will want an opportunity to say something about at some later stage.

  The fourth element was the commitment which emerged from all of the meetings to a very explicit and clear-cut trade facilitation agenda. A trade and investment framework document was agreed. A work program was agreed extending to the issues of standards, recognition of qualifications and harmonisation of procedures—especially in relation to customs—of addressing non-tariff barriers generally and addressing competition policy and its implications for anti-dumping. It was also agreed to work towards the establishment of a regional investment code.

  It is absolutely crucial that it be understood, in a way that many commentators have not understood, that this is the heart and soul of the activity that APEC is now embarked upon—the specific nuts and bolts trade facilitation measures that will have enormous implications for reducing costs and barriers to access in this particular region. It is crucial that it also be realised that this meeting represents a very big step forward from what has been the preoccupation, up until now, with simply information gathering, transparency information exchange and policy dialogue to specific action programs that will produce agreed results of that kind.

  Fifthly, there is the technical cooperation agenda, especially in the areas of energy, telecommunications, transport, human resource development and addressing the infrastructure bottlenecks that have been so well described by Mr Keating and others in their contributions to that meeting.

  A sixth outcome of the meeting—if this still is not good enough for Senator Hill—was that several new dimensions to the APEC dialogue were established and put on the record: new meetings of finance and economic ministers to discuss macro-economic developments and responses to them; new attention being paid to the establishment of a trade and environment dialogue; and a new kind of involvement of business through business round tables.

  Seventhly, and finally, there was a resolution of some very difficult and sensitive questions about the membership of the organisation with a very clear-cut agreement being reached on the need to consolidate it at its present manageable levels. I think Australia can be very pleased and proud of this particular meeting and the contribution we have made to the initiation of APEC in 1989 and its development since, particularly on this occasion.