Philippine President Sees APEC's Relevance Vital to Future

The Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) must always make itself relevant so as to maintain its vitality, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo said in Manila on October 13.

In an interview with Chinese correspondents based in Manila, President Arroyo said different regional fora run the risk of eventually becoming moribund, so the APEC should keep relevant to prevent that scenario.

"The relevance of the APEC in the future is whether it can address the rapid international capital flows, the rapid advances in the information and communications technology (ICT), and the threat to world peace coming from global terrorism," she said.

The APEC is now facing three major challenges, topmost of which is that the organization should continue to be relevant, according to Arroyo, who will attend the ninth Informal APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting to be held in the east Chinese city of Shanghai on October 20-21.

"And to be relevant, we must now address the issue of economic security resulting from the global terrorist threat," she said, referring to the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.

She said the issue should be included in the agenda of the upcoming APEC meeting, although the grouping will still focus on its original goals, including the promotion of trade and investments and the facilitation of economic and technological cooperation.

"The number one problem now in the economic environment is the environment of economic security," she said, explaining that a big source of economic slowdown now is the uncertainty resulting from the September 11 event.

The 54-year-old president said that is the reason why she has requested to speak on terrorism at a luncheon for the APEC leaders.

The second challenge facing the APEC members, she said, is how to push the World Trade Organization (WTO) forward so that the developing countries will really have a "meaningful" special and differential treatment.

That kind of treatment means "not only a difference in the way that we time our liberalization, but also the capability building to prepare for that liberalization," she stressed.

She said the Philippine government supports the launching of a new round of multilateral trade talks because it believes the new round is an important way by which the new reality in the 21st century can be addressed.

On China's entry into the WTO, she said her country would like to look at the opportunities that will come with it. "We want to be able to explore the opportunities for the Philippines emerging from that entry and we hope that there will be many opportunities indeed because the old, long-standing ties between China and the Philippines."

The president said the third challenge is how the APEC can promote the ICT among its 21 members in the new century as it is a world of ICT now.

On the role of the APEC, She said the forum is unique compared to other regional groupings because it represents the economies around the Pacific, which also represents the fastest growing economies in the world.

"Therefore, in this forum, we can agree on how to address economic security, on how to promote a truly development round in the WTO, and on how ICT can move forward to facilitate APEC processes," she said.

(People's Daily 10/14/2001)

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