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Diplomacy in Action

Interview on Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

Kurt Tong
Senior Official for APEC, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Washington, DC
March 9, 2010


QUESTION: What is the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and why is it important for America?

MR. TONG: Well, as you know, the Asia-Pacific region is the most dynamic economic region on the planet. It accounts for more than half of the global GDP, and more than 60 percent of our exports go to the Asia-Pacific. Now within the region, APEC is the most important economic organization. It has all the key members participating, and the most important initiatives in the region take place either through APEC or are created within APEC.

Now, our top priority in APEC is the removal of barriers to trade and investment, to create more opportunities for more jobs and more exports from the United States.

QUESTION: What is APEC doing to address the current economic concerns of the American people?

MR. TONG: 2009 clearly was not a good year for the U.S. economy or for many of the economies of the Asia-Pacific region, so it’s really important that APEC play an important role in promoting growth and recovery in the Asia-Pacific region. That’s really our short-term focus. But taking a longer view, it’s important to create a paradigm for growth in the Asia-Pacific region which will lead to long-term and sustainable growth and thus benefit the United States.

QUESTION: What are some themes APEC will address in 2010?

MR. TONG: I think we’ll be putting particular emphasis here on small and medium enterprise development, worker retraining, and job creation – again, within small and medium enterprises. APEC has a real capability to have the economies of the region learning from each other and studying each other’s best practices to figure out how they can do a better job of adjusting to economic change in ways that workers and small or medium enterprises keep up with that change.

Another really important area is in the area of the environment. I think that in 2010, we’ll be working hard to continue the Peer Review on Energy Efficiency. This is a program to make sure that the APEC economies learn from each other and are basically convinced by each other to improve their energy efficiency through – by reviewing what they’ve done so far.

A final area which I’d like to mention is ease of doing business. APEC took a pledge last year to make doing business cheaper, faster, in the Asia-Pacific region and set specific targets for that improvement: a five percent within – by 2011 and 25 percent improvement in the speed and ease of doing business in the region by 2015, so we’ll be working hard to implement those programs and make the policy changes in all the APEC economies to make that happen.

QUESTION: What priorities will the U.S. focus on when hosting in 2011?

MR. TONG: First of all, I should note that we’ll be hosting the leaders meeting in Hawaii. There will be several meetings throughout the year taking place in different American cities leading up to that session in Hawaii. But throughout the year, we’ll be, again, pushing themes of job creation and structural adjustment of the economies in the Asia-Pacific region. We’ll also be pushing promotion of trade opportunities by reducing barriers to trade and investment around the region.

The real key there is to get the understanding of our Asia-Pacific partners and have them really understand why it’s to their benefit as well as to ours to have those barriers removed. We have a good track record of this kind of work at APEC. We will work very, very hard on it in 2011. And really, hosting the event, where the United States has an opportunity to set the agenda for the year and describe what the outcome should be and bring everyone on board is a very historic opportunity for the United States, and we’re very excited about the potential.

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