APEC plays 'pivotal' role in promoting peace, development amid challenges
Multilateralism, exemplified by entities such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, has significantly contributed to the advancement of regional and global economic growth in recent decades and should be firmly upheld by all, experts say.
The APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in San Francisco in the United States will be held on Thursday and Friday. The regional economic forum was established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific.
Edward Tse, founder and chairman of Gao Feng Advisory Company, said that multilateral institutions are critical to regional and international development. Over the past few decades, the Asia-Pacific region has experienced significant economic growth, with APEC playing a pivotal role in promoting this development.
Tse said multilateral institutions have the potential to lower or eliminate trade and tariff barriers within the region, facilitating intra-regional trade. Additionally, regular communication among countries through these institutions contributes greatly to economic globalization.
Koh King Kee, president of the Center for New Inclusive Asia, a Malaysian think tank, said that APEC covers the world's most economically dynamic regions, with the participation of the two largest economies, the U.S. and China. Additionally, several other dynamic economies such as South Korea and Singapore are also part of the group.
For the current meeting, global attention is on relations between the world's two largest economies. Their bilateral relationship has only recently started showing signs of a thaw after years of tensions.
Koh emphasized the significance of the APEC meeting, saying that both China and the U.S. are major global economic and military powers. By maintaining communication through APEC to promote regional peace and development, strategic miscalculations can be avoided.
Tse said that the process of globalization has been smooth for decades. However, in recent times, the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system, led by the World Trade Organization, have faced challenges, and there is an increasing risk of fragmentation and division within the global economic and trade governance system.
"Due to geopolitical tensions, certain countries have politicized economic issues in recent years," he said. "However, I believe that most countries, especially developing countries, have recognized the benefits of cooperation among nations and global economic development."
He further emphasized that many developing countries have already experienced the advantages of the Belt and Road Initiative, which operates under a multilateral mechanism, over the past decade.
In recent years, the world has developed in two directions: in one there is greater emphasis on geopolitical competition and politicizing of economic issues; in the other, the emphasis is on peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit, Tse said.
"In the past few decades, China has made great achievements in modernization, and the development direction represented by China emphasizes peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, which has been recognized by many developing countries," Tse said, adding that peaceful coexistence and economic development are the common pursuits of most countries in the world, which cannot be reversed by geopolitical factors.
Arancha Gonzalez, dean of the Paris School of International Affairs and former Spanish foreign minister, said in a recent conference at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing that a multilateral system, such as the WTO, now faces challenges, as some countries feel that they have the right to disregard existing rules and rely solely on their own power to address problems.
Gonzalez also emphasized the need for inclusive global economic participation and collaborative efforts to address geopolitical challenges to the multilateral system.
Koh from the Center for New Inclusive Asia said that the world needs a cooperative approach that is open and inclusive like APEC, rather than one that is unilateral.
As countries are interconnected in a globalized world, selective adjustments in global supply chains may occur, but complete "decoupling" is unfeasible. Thus, despite the challenges in Sino-U.S. relations, it is unrealistic for the U.S. to "decouple" or "de-risk" from China, he said.
He also said that China's commitment to using multilateral platforms to enhance understanding and restore global cooperation has been welcomed by most of the world.