22 June, 2021

Pacific Power

The Manila summit puts the free trade grouping on track

Pacific Power

LAST week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila marked a milestone of sorts in the 18 member group’s bid for free trade by the year 2020. However, some observers accused the summiteers of harbouring "hidden agendas", leading to an undercurrent of tension as a result of differences over the pace of economic liberalisation.

By all accounts the Manila Action Plan for APEC (MAPA), endorsed by the forum’s 18 leaders, was a major breakthrough in turning the Asia-Pacific region into the world’s largest free-trade area. But the biggest victor was US President Bill Clinton, who won approval for setting a target date of the year 2000 to eliminate all trade tariffs in information technology products. The US stands to gain from this proposal which it had been pushing for months. Free trade in information technology means the creation of more American jobs, and more mileage for Clinton back home in Washington, DC. As one observer said: "Clinton told the APEC heads, ‘it’s the economy all over again, stupid.’...

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