The 21 APEC representatives wore traditional Korean clothing for a group photo to commemorate the end of the 2005 summit. Taiwanese envoy Lin Hsin-yi (back row, third from right) exchanged ideas with leaders from many nations during the meeting, increasing Taiwan's presence on the world stage. (courtesy of GIO)
The Asia-Pacific Economic Coopera-tion (APEC) forum held an Economic Leaders' Meeting on November 18 and 19 in Busan, South Korea. The event was capped by a speech by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun which reiterated the commitment of the organization's 21 member nations to support multilateral trade frameworks and fight corruption, avian flu, and piracy. Leaders also called on the World Trade Organization to conclude the "Doha Round" of trade talks.
Taiwanese envoy Lin Hsin-yi exchanged ideas with leaders of many nations during the meeting, and brought up the idea of creating a joint stockpile of vaccines. His trip was a success, and raised Taiwan's visibility on the international scene.
The combined economic power of APEC's 21 member nations equals half of the world's trade volume. It is the largest regional economic organization in the world. The consensus reached at this year's summit was to urge the WTO to push through the Doha Development Agenda it created in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, in order to strengthen the multilateral trade system, promote growth throughout the world, and develop China's economic potential. Leaders also encouraged WTO leaders to make reaching the goals of the Doha Ministerial Declaration by the end of 2006 a priority at their December ministerial conference in Hong Kong.
At the same time, in order to achieve the trade liberalization goals set by APEC in 1994's Bogar Declaration drafted in Indonesia, a "Busan Road Map" was created. The road map includes measures such as supporting regional free-trade agreements and cracking down on counterfeiting and Internet piracy.
Additionally, in the face of the avian flu menace, the member economic entities agreed to carry out concrete preventive measures such as compiling regional lists of experts, holding practice drills, and raising public awareness.
As terrorism has already claimed thousands of lives and threatens the safety and economic prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, the members vowed to disrupt international terrorist organizations and destroy weapons of mass destruction and their deployment systems. Also worth a mention is the South Korean robot named Albert Hubo which greeted guests at the opening of the summit. The robot, with a head modeled after Albert Einstein's, showed off the high-tech abilities of South Korea, a memory manufacturing giant.
Formed in 1989, APEC is one of the most important multilateral organizations in which Taiwan takes part. More than 70% of Taiwan's trade is with member nations, and every APEC decision has a great impact on Taiwan's economic development. Taiwan has been an active participant in APEC meetings every year since it joined in 1991, and has also hosted more than ten events.
Informal dialogues between leaders of APEC nations have been held since 1993, but due to strong objections from China, Taiwan's presidents have been unable to attend in person. They have appointed envoys to attend on their behalf. This unfair treatment of Taiwan has caused Taiwan serious harm.
Especially regretable is the case this year. Originally, legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng was to serve as envoy. China, however, objected that the selection of representatives could not have political overtones, and so mounted pressure for another envoy to be chosen. Senior presidential adviser Lin Hsin-yi was selected.
As the envoy was changed at the last minute, photographs and other material could not be sent out in time for inclusion in meeting-related materials. The Government Information Office worked overtime, sending out an introduction of Lin Hsin-yi before the meeting and taking out an advertisement on Busan airport luggage carts reading "Taiwan Stands Tall" to increase Taiwan's international exposure.
Lin is fluent in English and Japanese, and interacted with leaders from around the world in formal and casual settings. While he never forgets to announce Taiwan's sovereignty in international media interviews, he also strives to keep the delicate balance in cross-strait relations as China's power grows.
Lin says that if Taiwan is to raise its visibility on the world stage, it needs to endure the insults and attend the summits, and during them make a contribution by bringing its creativity to the table. Throughout the last 11 years of APEC summits, China's economic power has grown continuously and made it a key player in the meetings. During the meetings between industry and political leaders, many representatives wait in line to have a word with Chinese leader Hu Jintao. If Taiwan wants to make itself seen, it can't be just as the object of Chinese pressure.
Every year, Taiwan does US$3.5 trillion worth of business in foreign trade. International trade has been one of the most important driving factors in Taiwan's economic growth. If Taiwan is to escape the risk of marginalization, it must remain a key economic player by establishing bilateral agreements with Southeast Asian nations, strengthening ties with trade partners, and entering regional free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (P4) set up between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei.
Next year's APEC annual summit will be held in Vietnam. Taiwan invests US$10 billion a year in Vietnam, and is one of that country's most important trading partners. We hope that President Chen Shui-bian will be able to overcome Chinese pressure and attend in person. With solid economic power and detailed plans for economic cooperation, Taiwan will not merely be seen but make itself known internationally.