"Russia, Peru and Vietnam joined APEC in 1997-98, bringing its membership
to 21. A 10-year moratorium on membership will end this year, and
Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador have applied to join.
"Of the remaining 18 members Chile, Mexico, Canada and the US are from
the Americas; China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are from
East Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and
Brunei are from Southeast Asia; and Australia, New Zealand and Papua New
Guinea are from Oceania." http://www.stopbush2007.org/node/10
When APEC comes to town
In 2007, Australia will be the happy host country of APEC – the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. APEC is yet another ingredient in the WTO / IMF / WB / BIT / FTA alphabet soup that serves up a bitter brew of unregulated free trade and corporate control, regardless of the social and environmental consequences.
For John Howard, APEC means the chance to host the biggest meeting of world leaders ever held in Australia from 8 – 9 September in Sydney. It means the chance to continue pushing a free trade model that is fuelling unsustainable growth and climate change. It means the chance to promote clean coal and nuclear energy through APEC's Energy Working Group.
For us, it means a chance to challenge and expose APEC's model of corporate globalisation that places the legal rights of corporations above those people and the environment. It means a chance to put climate change and corporate globalisation firmly on the agenda of the 2007 Federal election. It means a chance to join together across different campaigns, to build power and a shared vision of what a better world may look like.
What is APEC and why should you care?
APEC was launched in 1989 and has grown to include 21 countries, ranging from rich countries such as Australia, the US and Japan to poor and developing countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand and PNG. Each year, APEC is hosted by a different member country. This year it is Vietnam. Next year, Australia will be the happy host. Throughout 2007, Australia will host over 100 meetings of government and business representatives, culminating in a meeting of government leaders in Sydney in September.
APEC is a multilateral forum that operates through a series of carefully scripted meetings. Unlike the World Trade Organisation, it does not make binding decisions or agreements. Government leaders come to APEC as leaders of 'economies' not elected leaders of governments. This means that political accountability is effectively side-stepped. APEC commitments bypass parliamentary ratification and there are no formal channels for engagement with civil society. As a forum for leaders of economies, the 'non-economic' effects of trade liberalisation on people and the environment are effectively silenced.
APEC's main game is to achieve what is known as the Bogor Goals for 'free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies.' Free and open trade is doublespeak for removing government regulations that restrict the activities of transnational corporations. In short, it is a directive to label most areas of society as tradeable commodities, from water to health to medicines and essential food crops, and Liberalise! Privatise! Deregulate! Within APEC member countries, these policies have fuelled a race to the bottom on workers rights and environmental standards, as transnational investment has moved to export processing industries in the Global South to take advantage of low wages and lax environmental regulations. Last years APEC forum in Korea was confronted by thousands of farmers whose food security and livelihoods been threatened by subsidised agricultural imports.
APEC means business when it comes to climate change
The economies of the APEC member countries account for over 60% of the world's energy demands. In 1990, APEC established an Energy Working Group (EWG) to 'maximise the energy sector's contribution to the region's economic and social well-being.' The EWG meets twice a year, is made up of government officials from energy policy departments. A couple of years ago, the EWG established the APEC Energy Business Network, to allow industry to feed into the EWG. The Energy Business Network includes such familiar friends as: Rio Tinto Australia (Andrew Lloyd), BHP Billiton (Brett Mattes), Woodside Energy (John Philp), Unocal (Laura Hudson) and Texaco (Julie Garcia).
Not surprisingly, the EWG has a developed program of research and workshops on 'clean fossil energy' and nuclear power. In April, Australia co-hosted an "APEC Business and Climate Change" workshop in Seoul, with over 100 industry leaders and key policy makers from APEC countries. The proceedings of this workshop are not publicly available but it seems that a large focus of this meeting was on technological fixes for climate change, such as carbon capture and storage. In August, the EWG will host a training course for APEC members on nuclear power in South Korea and research papers developed for the EWG include "The role of nuclear power in the energy development of the APEC region" and "CO2 storage prospectivity of selected sedimentary basins in the rigion of China and South East Asia".
Australia co-chairs the EWG and the Energy Business Network and, with the US, appears to be using these APEC structures to push the Asia-Pacific Partnership of Clean Development and Climate, also known as the 'Coal Pact', on to other APEC members. The Coal Pact is effectively an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol and sets no targets for greenhouse gas reductions. In August last year, the US briefed the EWG on the Coal Pact proposal and in February, the EWG sponsored a Clean Coal Seminar in Thailand.
So, what does happen when APEC comes to town? APEC has a full agenda in 2007. As well as the leaders summit from 8 – 9 September in Sydney, there will be over 100 meetings of government and business representatives throughout Australia in 2007. It is likely that the Federal Election will be called in October.
APEC is not a decision-making body and therefore, we can choose to let it come and go unnoticed and unchallenged. However, APEC's sustained agenda of meetings throughout Australia provides an opportunity for APEC to be more than just a one-off 'anti' protest. If we start organising now, we have the opportunity to set the agenda for 2007 and to build power and relationships across a series of decentralised actions and events throughout the year.
"Another world is not only possible. She is coming. And on a quiet day, I can hear her breathing", Arundhati Roy
By Jemma Bailey, trade justice campaigner with the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network (AFTINET)