Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation

APEC: Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation in Evol

APEC: Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation in Evolution

APEC is not one of the better-known international organizations, even though it is enormous in geographical scope, and includes several of the world’s leading economies. The very vastness of its range, and of the region’s potential, have posed a continuing challenge to the development of APEC. The very name, Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation, was described by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans as “four adjectives in search of a noun” (Morrison, 1998, p. 9).

The original membership of APEC, represented at the Canberra meeting in 1989, included the six thencurrent members of ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations  Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. It also included what are described as “the five developed nations” of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States, as well as South Korea (Morrison, 1998, p. 9).

It is indicative of the astonishing pace of economic development in East Asia that the author cited above identifies “the five developed nations” in the original membership separately from South Korea. While the phrase is taken from a 1998 reference, the phrase undoubtedly represents assumptions made in source documents contemporary with the establishment of APEC two decades earlier.

No one today would think of describing South Korea as anything other than a “developed nation.” Two decades previously, however, South Korea was still in a transitional stage  no longer “developing” in the euphemistic sense of underdeveloped, but not quite yet one of the fully developed industrialized nations either. This rapid transition has been characteristic of the rapid development of much of Asia, and typifies both the need for and the challenges facing APEC.

It was recognized from the outset that the membership of APEC needed to be broadened. By 1991, the People’s Republic of China …

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