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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 23:15 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 23:15 | SYDNEY

The benefits of a diminished APEC



24 November 2008 09:31

There is a view that the creation of the G20 leaders meeting will diminish the role of APEC. There will be some resistance to this idea among Canberra’s long-standing APEC aficionados, but it might not work out too badly for Australia. Let’s leave to another day the debate about whether APEC has become a bloated, directionless and messy hodge-podge of disparate countries in search of something useful to do, and look at how this latest development might be turned to our advantage.

First, the main plus for APEC was the Leaders Meeting, and G20 could replace this, for Australia, without loss.

But what about the benefits of keeping the US engaged in Asia? If the East Asia Summit could become the principal regional debating ground. Its 17 members include six G20 members, so this could be the venue where Asian positions are sorted out (no easy task, but well worth taking as far as it will go), with the distilled position then being carried to G20. G20, in turn, is much better linked into the still-evolving global rule-setting framework than APEC: whatever new rules come out of the current financial crisis, they will be developed in bodies such as the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision and the Financial Stability Forum, which link more logically to G20 than to APEC.

This strong presence in G20 – almost one third of the members – gives the EAS a head-start over the slightly smaller Asian groups (ASEAN and ASEAN-3 include only four G20 members) which at present are seen by most of the region as the principal vehicles for regional cooperation. It would take some slick diplomatic work on Australia’s part to shift the action to EAS, but the logic of the EAS plus G20 is compelling.

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