Chapter 1 - Introduction
Establishment of the inquiry
On 26 June 1997, the Senate referred the
matter of Australia in relation
to Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to the Committee for inquiry and
report by 1 July 1998. The
Senate subsequently, on several occasions, extended the reporting date to 16 August 2000.
Conduct of the inquiry
The Committee advertised the inquiry in the
national press on 2 July 1997,
calling for written submissions to be lodged with the Committee by 14 August 1997. The Committee also wrote to
relevant Commonwealth Government Ministers, State Premiers and Territory Chief
Ministers, the heads of mission of APEC economies and other interested nations
and economic groupings resident in Canberra, and a range of academics, business and other organisations with an
interest in APEC, to draw their attention to the inquiry and invite them to
make written submissions. A total of 59 submissions was received. A list of
submissions is contained in Appendix 1.
After initial consideration of the submissions,
the Committee began conducting public hearings on 29 September 1997 in Canberra and held further hearings in Canberra in 1997 and in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in 1998. A final hearing with the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was held on 18 February 1999. Details of the hearings
and the witnesses who appeared at them are contained in Appendix 2.
A review of the evidence towards the end of 1997
resulted in an approach to a number of additional organisations and individuals
who had not up to that time contributed to the inquiry. Many of these provided
written information and gave evidence to the Committee during the 1998 public
On 4 February 1998, during the course of the Melbourne public hearings, the Committee visited the Australian APEC Study
Centre, a part of Monash University located in the city. A CD-ROM
produced by the Centre to inform students and teachers about APEC, which had
been launched in late 1997, was demonstrated to the Committee. Members of the
Committee also took the opportunity to talk informally to staff at the Centre
about their work and APEC.
Scope of the inquiry
As the focus of APEC has been mainly on trade
and investment liberalisation and facilitation and economic and technical
cooperation within the Asia Pacific region, the Committee concentrated on those
issues. However, economic and trade issues cannot be quarantined from a range
of non-economic issues, especially the environment, which is often affected by
economic activity. Although the environment does not have a separate working
group to coordinate consideration of environmental matters within APEC, various
environmental issues have been considered in a number of working groups.
Moreover, environment ministers of member economies have met to discuss
environmental issues within the framework of APEC. The Committee therefore
considered relevant environmental matters during the course of the inquiry.
Social issues, such as the social effects of
trade liberalisation, occupational health and safety, labour rights and human
rights initially received scant attention within APEC, even though NGOs and
other organisations sought to have these issues included in the APEC processes.
However, the growing concern being expressed around the world about the effects
of trade liberalisation and globalisation on people and communities has more
recently raised the profile of these matters in APEC. Although these issues had
not achieved any prominence in APEC at the start of the inquiry, the Committee,
nevertheless, decided that these issues were relevant and should be considered
during the course of the inquiry.
Although some people have advocated the
inclusion of security issues within APEC, arguing that security and economic
matters are often linked, APEC has firmly rejected all attempts to broaden its
mandate to include security issues. Having noted APEC’s response to security
issues and the existence of a regional body, the ASEAN Regional Forum, which
was established specifically to consider regional security matters, the
Committee did not address security issues in the inquiry.
Asian economic crisis
The Asian economic crisis started in 1997 and
severely affected the region in the latter part of that year and in 1998. All
countries in North East Asia and South East Asia suffered from the crisis in
different ways and to varying degrees. Many countries in other parts of the
world were not immune from the flow-on effects of the crisis. Despite having
sound economic fundamentals and strong financial institutions, Australia, too,
succumbed to assaults on its currency, owing in large part to the country’s
trade exposure to Asian economies.
By early 2000, many of the countries in East
Asia had rebounded from the ravages of the crisis, although the reverberations
from it will continue to be felt within the economies of the region for some
time. The Committee’s terms of reference did not extend to an examination of
the causes of the crisis, the way in which it developed or the mechanisms used
to try to resolve it. While the crisis was discussed with a number of witnesses
during the inquiry, the Committee’s main interest lay in the likely effects of
the crisis on APEC’s progress towards its goals.
The Committee wishes to express its appreciation
to everyone who contributed to the inquiry by making submissions, providing
other information or appearing before the Committee in public hearings. In
particular, the Committee is grateful to the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade for its cooperation and assistance throughout the inquiry.
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