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In the midst of a broad national campaign fostering Asia-Pacific trade, Ian Murray takes a statistical snapshot of the importance of APEC.

A few weeks ago I went to the launch of the APEC Education Resource entitled APEC: Strengthening our Community, Building a Sustainable Future. The resource, launched by Alexander Downer, will be distributed to 3,000 secondary schools throughout Australia, and aims to provide students with deeper knowledge of Australia’s links with the Asia-Pacific region and the APEC forum.

Apart from opening my eyes to the need to provide students with a greater understanding of our Asia-Pacific neighbours, the launch reminded me of the importance of APEC nations to Australian trade and the extent of ‘APEC Australia 2007’, which has already begun its roll-out across the country. The launch also reinforced the important role APEC plays in a range of global programs, from cooperation to counter terrorism, to health, energy security, and trade liberalisation.

When it comes to trade, APEC is our market and has been for more than 20 years. Eight out of 10 of our top export markets are APEC members. In 2006, 69 percent or $260 billion of Australia’s global trade was with APEC member countries, 40 percent of foreign investment into Australia is APEC sourced, and 69 percent of Australia’s foreign investment goes to APEC countries.

This is driven by the sheer size, growth, and economic development of APEC member countries. Its 21 members span four continents, produce 56 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP), and represent 48 percent of world trade. APEC members control 6,000 port and harbour facilities and host 18 of the world’s top 20 seaports by volume. Its 2.6 billion people represent more than 40 percent of the world’s population, and what makes it really dynamic is the fact that close to 30 percent of the population in APEC countries is between 10 and 24 years of age, versus 13 percent in Australia.

This year APEC is coming to town, with Australia hosting more than 30 major APEC meetings spanning 100 days and involving some 15,000 delegates. Importantly, while the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting is being held on September 8 and 9, major events are being held in every capital city and in several major regional centres across Australia.

Essentially driven by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), 15 Australian government agencies will take part in policy, organisational, logistics and security planning for the meetings.

While the program began in January and has worked its way around Australia, the key trade events are scheduled for late June and July, culminating in the Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting scheduled for July 5 to 6 in Cairns. From June 24 to 27 the Office for Women is conducting a Women Leaders Network Meeting in Port Douglas, while DFAT is holding its Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR V) Conference in Sydney on June 27 to 28. Given the sheer economic importance of transport and logistics in the APEC region, this latter conference will focus on security of identity and security of the supply chain.

Since its birth in 1989, APEC has grown to become one of the world’s strongest economic forums. From an Australian perspective, the nations represented in APEC are our key trade and business partners today and into the future. The APEC Education Resource will play an important role in providing our nation’s youth, who will drive our economic future, with a better understanding of our neighbours.

For further information on APEC 2007 visit www.apec2007.org


* Ian Murray is executive director of the Australian Institute of Export.

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