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APEC Business Forum (ABF)

Subject: APEC Business Forum (ABF)

        APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong  
Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New 
Zealand, Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, 
Thailand and the United States.

* Creating the wealthiest free trade region in the world
* APEC Business Forum (ABF)
* Private sector recommendations
* Ramos said ordinary Asians would benefit from APEC.
* Protesters from all over Asia Pacific in Manila

Asia-Pacific leaders gathering here for their annual summit may
represent half of humanity in a vast and diverse region, but women have no
place at their top table.

Asia-Pacific economic and foreign ministers Friday reached to an agreement on details 
of how to create the wealthiest free trade region in the world, 
but response was thin to the concrete proposals of business leaders. 
        ``APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) has a long way to go. The  
challenge before us in Manila is to prove...that APEC's goals will be 
attained,'' said Philippine President Fidel Ramos, urging ministers to 
heed the recommendations of business leaders. 
        Proposals from the APEC Business Advisory Council, a group of 53 of  
the region's top business leaders, on ways to speed up the free trade 
process have received little support from most of APEC's 18 members. 
        The council, which has said ``APEC is moving too slow,'' recommended  
in October 16 concrete actions to facilitate trade and investment flow, 
including the creation of a business visa that would allow free access 
and the formulation of investment protection polices. 
        Among the members who responded immediately were the United States  
and the Philippines. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the 
United States will offer 10-year, multiple entry visas to businessmen on 
a reciprocal basis. Ramos offered a multiple entry, minimum 5-year visa, 
also on a reciprocal basis. 
        Roberto Romulo, chairman of the council, said the groups will have a  
chance to further discuss recommendations during a dialogue Nov. 24, a 
day before the leaders' summit. He said he expected the slow response 
because ``such is the way of bureaucracy.'' 
        Some 550 CEOs also met Friday in a summit of their own to discuss  
ways to expand their role in APEC and possibly forge partnerships. 
        Meanwhile, APEC's first shot at showing it is serious about having a  
free trade area was stalled by a lack of clear consensus among all 18 
members on the fate of a U.S.-sponsored Information Technology Agreement 
aimed at eliminating tariffs on specific products by the year 2000. 
        The United States said the proposal would benefit Asian countries as  
it could eliminate tariffs on half of some $72 billion worth of products 
imported by the United States from the region annually. But member 
economies wary of the proposal fear only a handful that produce high-end 
products stand to gain. 
        Washington wants APEC to collectively back the proposal in the World  
Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Singapore in December and to 
begin reducing tariffs on information technology products in 1997. But 
two of APEC's members -- China and Taiwan -- are not members of the WTO. 
        The two-day ministerial meeting is aimed at approving a final draft  
of how the region can eliminate trade and investment barriers by the 
year 2010 for industrialized economies and 202 for developing ones. 
        The document -- to be called the Manila Action Plan for APEC --  
contains the respective individual action plans of APEC's 18-member 
economies, a collective action plan on what the group intends to do as a 
whole, and a list and progress report on 325 economic and technical 
cooperation projects designed to sustain the region's growth. 

APEC Business Forum (ABF)

Philippine President Fidel Ramos opened a two-day networking forum for
business and political leaders on Friday with a call to Asia-Pacific "tiger"
entrepreneurs to support the cooperation drive in the region.

Opening the APEC Business Forum (ABF), Ramos said the development of the
Pacific Rim region was dependent on the energy and enterprise of the private

"We who live in free-market societies know that growth, prosperity and human
development and fulfilment are created by the exertions of men in institutions 
that are free to invent and create -- in a word, by...the private sector," said 
Ramos, host of the fourth annual APEC summit in the Philippines.

Ramos said the ABF, which groups hundreds of large private companies across
Asia and the Americas, would allow heads of business to meet political leaders from 
the 18-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

"Let's go for it. Go Go Go!" Ramos told a sea of chief executives meeting in
the heart of Makati, Manila's main business district.

Ramos has pledged to give the private sector a higher profile at this year's
APEC summit than it had at previous gatherings.

Private sector recommendations

A number of private sector recommendations are expected to be included in
the Manila Action Plan for APEC's development into the world's biggest free
trade zone that the leaders are due to endorse at Monday's summit in Subic
Bay, north of Manila.

These include proposals for meeting the region's massive infrastructure
needs and ways to speed up the flow of people, goods and capital.

The ABF, meeting for two days ahead of the summit, includes the heads of
dozens of big-name conglomerates and financial institutions such as Salomon
Inc of the United States, Japan's Itochu Corp and Southeast Asia's biggest
phone giant Singapore Telecom.

In a rebuttal of recent attacks on APEC, Ramos said the grouping represented
a new model of cooperation for development and shared prosperity.

"The traditional model relied on the transfer of resources from the rich to
the poor as the essential transaction in development cooperation. The new 
model's preferred mode of cooperation is the sharing of information, knowledge, 
experience and expertise," he said.

Critics of APEC say its free-market drive could throw small businesses out
of work. They also charge that big business with no national loyalties will
ravage the environment and turn poor Asia-Pacific nations into manufacturing

But Ramos told his business audience, which he repeatedly referred to as
"Tiger entrepreneurs," that the APEC enterprise was essential.

"If we do not take up regionalism as our collective course, then we will be
bogged down by endless quarrels over details, turf and concessions," he said.

Ramos said ordinary Asians would benefit from APEC.

"I'm not just talking only about the big players...I am also talking about
the small entrepreneur in Java who will benefit from our joint efforts in APEC 
to stimulate training opportunities," he said.

"I am talking about the Mindanao farmer, whose ability to get his crops to
market will be enhanced by the new roads that will be built. I am talking about 
the high school graduate in Port Moresby who will compete for a manufacturing job."

Chairman of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co Roberto Romulo,
addressing the forum as one of the key business advisers to APEC, said: "We hope 
that in the next few days all of us will benefit from the biggest networking event 
of the year."

"When economies grow, everyone benefits," Romulo said.

"We hope that we will all have the opportunity to do what we do best -- make
more business."


For all their differences, leaders of the 18 economies in the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation  (APEC) forum make up an exclusively male club.

China and the United States sent female trade negotiators. U.S. Trade
Representative Charlene Barshefsky and China's trade minister Wu Yi met face-to-face on 
the major issue bedevilling relations between the American and Asian superpowers.

Malaysia's feisty trade minister, Rafidah Aziz, Hong Kong Trade and Industry
Secretary Denise Yue and Thailand's deputy minister of commerce, Sukon Kanchanalai, were
among other women labouring on the foothills of the summit.

Female rulers of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka -- and the
current crop of prominent dissidents in Burma and Indonesia -- all have been daughters of
male leaders whose focus on power and webs of contacts enabled their children to flourish.

Their less privileged sisters working mainly in the fields or service
industries face exploitation and unemployment in a free-market system, says Nanette 
Miranda of the Women Workers' Movement (Philippines).

"It is women who are the first to be hit by retrenchments because of the
nature of their jobs," she said.

Despite being painted by leftwingers as a heartless bunch of capitalists,
APEC is looking at ways of easing the pain that economic reform and free trade can bring to 
local industries. A business advisory council has stressed
the need to give vulnerable groups, in whose impoverished and overworked
ranks Asian women still figure prominently, the skills and training they
need to compete when tariff barriers come down.

To Nathaniel Santiago no good can come of APEC.

The climate of free trade and investment the group of 18 Pacific Rim
economies wants to create by 2020 would be a disaster for the Philippines' 
economy and its people, the young leftist leader said.

"The reality is there's no free or fair trade in this world as long as
monopolies exist and APEC is dominated by the United States and Japan," he said.

To American ears that may sound like an extremist position on the Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which begins Friday in Manila with the
opening of ministerial meetings.

But in the Philippines, where millions still live in poverty despite
free-trade policies begun four years ago under President Fidel Ramos, 
many wouldn't consider it radical.

That and the Philippines' cantankerous democracy explain why APEC faces more
opposition here than in any of the other countries that have so far hosted the 
annual conference: the United States, Indonesia and Japan.

Thursday, police blocked a march by 1,000 anti-APEC protesters in Manila,
and two suspected communist guerrillas were killed in a clash 20 miles from
the meeting site. While probably unrelated to APEC, the clash was areminder
the Philippines faces one of the world's last communist insurgencies even as
it revels in economic growth and rising diplomatic stature.

Perhaps only in the Philippines, where every opinion seems to be backed by
an interest group, would there be four grass-roots forums to run parallel
with APEC. Even the Catholic Church has mixed feelings  about the merits
of the organization's free trade goals.

"I am optimistic that this is not a case of negative competition, since we
are all attacking the same animal --although from different perspectives and
with different tactics," Renato Constantino Jr. of Salankas, a labor
federation, told the Manila daily Nation Today.

What organizers of the four civic shadow conferences have in common is a
belief that APEC's massive effort to create a regional free trade area may impair 
the rights of the marginalized sectors of society.

Government and business leaders counter that in the long run APEC will make
economies more competitive, create more jobs and lift everyone with the rising 
tide of prosperity.

Santiago's group, which has sponsored the People's Conference Against
Imperialist  Globalization has vowed to
disrupt APEC with protest demonstrations and other activities.

It has called for a protest caravan of 7,000 vehicles Sunday from Manila to
the main gate of Subic Bay Freeport, where President Clinton and the leaders will 
meet for talks.

Dozens of activists who belong to BAYAN, a leftist umbrella organization
that claims to represent 1 million
unionists, students, women's groups, fishermen, teachers and indigenous
people, already have 
been arrested for
posting anti-APEC posters around the slums of Manila.

Santiago, BAYAN's secretary-general, said the arrests are an indication of
Ramos' attempts to silence opposition to APEC, but government officials said
the activists were charged with vandalism and freed after paying a fine.

The Solidarity of Labor Movements Against APEC, or SLAM-APEC is the sponsor
of a second grass-roots summit on the free-trade conference. Its organizers said
APEC will lead to mass joblessness in the Philippines.

"The idea of cooperation (in APEC) isn't bad," Constantino said. "But the
question is: Cooperation by whom and on whose behalf?"

Walden Bello, a prominent political sociologist and economist from the
University of the Philippines, leads a third conference called the Manila 
People's Forum on APEC.

Bello doesn't oppose economic cooperation in the region either but warns
against the risks of  indiscriminate trade liberalization that fails to consider 
the fate of those who struggle for economic survival.

The fourth grass-roots conference is the Asia-Pacific Sustainable
Development Initiative headed by environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, who has convinced 
the Ramos government to make sustainable development the governing principle for 
the country's plan to reduce tariffs along with the other APEC 

Finally, the Catholic Church, very influential in a country where 80 percent
of the population is Christian, endorsed APEC but only after urging the 18 economies 
to focus on the war against poverty, particularly in the Philippines.

In an eight-page pastoral statement welcoming the APEC leaders to the
Philippines, Cardinal  Jaime Sin cautioned the government "not to cede the common 
good of the Filipinos," particularly the poor by hastily committing itself to 
liberation and abandoning its role to protect homegrown industries.

"Economies must function for humane societies, not humane societies
sacrificed for abstract economies," Sin said.

Australia submitted two studies suggesting that tariff-free trade could
boost real annual income among APEC members by $303 billion.

For the Philippines, the summit is an opportunity to show off its 10-year
transformation from "sick man of Asia" under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos
to fast-growing "tiger-in-waiting" among the Asian economies.

 Mexican peasant leaders, Canadian  trade unionists and Filipina nuns joined
hundreds of protesters on Thursday denouncing an Asia-Pacific free trade
bloc being forged at APEC meetings in the Philippines. 
         While officials from the 18-member Asia-Pacific Economic  
Cooperation honed a plan of action to rip down all obstacles to 
trade and investment by 2020, leftist demonstrators took to the 
streets beating drums and waving banners. 
         ``This globalisation-liberalisation recipe is a sure-fire  
formula for economic disaster,'' Philippine congressman Wigberto 
Tanada told about 200 delegates chanting ``Imperialism, 
Imperialism'' at a leftwing congress. 
         Protesters claim that borderless economies will break  
organised labour and create unemployment, that big businesses 
with no national loyalties will wreak havoc on the environment 
and that free trade and investment will turn poor Asia-Pacific 
nations into manufacturing sweatshops for economic giants in the 
         ``Human Rights, Worker Rights'' chanted sari-clad Indian women  
protesters marching through Manila's Makati financial district 
as part of the most vocal opposition ever at an APEC forum. 
         ``Our call here is 'junk APEC','' said Satur Ocampo, spokesman  
for the People's Conference Against Imperialist Globalisation. 
         On the outskirts of Manila more than 1,000 demonstrators,  
including Roman Catholic priests, gathered to march towards the 
presidential palace. Riot police stopped them demanding they 
first secure a permit. 
         The protests highlighted the challenges of creating the  
world's largest free trade bloc embracing half the world's 
people in countries riven by economic disparities and political 
         APEC includes the United States and Japan as well as nations  
such as China struggling against poverty and more eager for soft 
loans and trade breaks than free-market competition. 
         Leftist groups planned marches, motorcades and even a  
protest flotilla of fishing boats as APEC leaders prepare for 
the fourth APEC summit in Subic Bay north of Manila on Monday. 
         Nathaniel Santiago, secretary-general of the leftist labour  
alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, predicted 200,000 people 
would join nationwide protests on Saturday and in transport and 
other industrial strikes on the day of the summit. 
         Foreign and economic ministers were due to arrive on  
Thursday ahead of the summit that will seal APEC's Manila Action 
         Among leaders expected are U.S. President Bill Clinton,  
Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Chinese President 
Jiang Zemin. 
         Clinton was relaxing in Australia, escaping political  
pressures at home where new questions were being raised over a 
Democratic Party fund-raising scandal involving Chinese American 
John Huang and his former boss, Indonesian tycoon James Riady. 
         The United States is pressing for the elimination of all  
tariffs on information technology by 2000. Ministers meeting on 
Friday were set to endorse an Information Technology Agreement 
that will broadly support U.S. aims. 
         Washington wants APEC backing for the free-trade measure to  
take to the first ministerial meeting of the World Trade 
Organisation in Singapore next month. 
         Other issues on the table are proposals to expand APEC  
membership. Vietnam is one of the first in the queue. 
         Hanging over the summit is simmering tension between members  
China and Taiwan. Beijing was alarmed by Taiwam's first free 
elections for the presidency in March, seeing them as a step 
towards independence for the island, which it regards as a 
breakaway province. 
         Taiwan officials at APEC ruled out any contacts with their  
Chinese counterparts in Manila to try to break the ice. 
         Security was tight as some 6,000 delegates and journalists  
streamed into Manila. Two bomb scares on Wednesday night turned 
out to be security drills. 
         Delegates were whisked into Manila down special ``friendship  
lanes'' past queues of cars. A street vendor was killed by a 
speeding television van in one of the lanes on Thursday, and in 
a separate accident three pedestrians, including a woman and her 
five-year-old, were injured. 
         The Philippines is using the APEC summit to trumpet its  
economic revival under President Fidel Ramos. Subic Bay, 
formerly a major U.S. naval base, has become a shining symbol of 
the country's market-oriented reforms. 

Source: >> Asia Pacific Investment & Incentives Guide <<
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