The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit, which wrapped up over the weekend in Lima, Peru, coincided with concerns about an uncertain U.S. role in Asia and the Pacific at an especially pivotal time. But according to USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who attended the summit and various side events alongside USCIB Vice President Helen Medina, there were also signs of progress and hope for continued U.S. leadership in the region.
“I believe that, despite the political rhetoric back home, our trading partners still want and expect the United States to play a leading role in APEC and in the region as a whole, and so do we,” said Robinson. “Now is the time to work even more closely together to promote trade and regional solutions that meet the needs of all parties.”
Under the leadership of the National Center for APEC, USCIB and other business groups joined a diverse array of American CEOs and other executives (including numerous USCIB members) in Lima. Throughout 2016, USCIB has addressed a number of key priorities through APEC, including chemicals policy, advertising self-regulation, data privacy, customs, digital trade, and women in the economy. Our members and staff have engaged in several APEC working groups, including the Chemical Dialogue, APEC Business-Customs Dialogue, Customs Procedures Virtual Working Group, Alliance for Supply Chain Connectivity, the Electronic Commerce Steering Group and Data Privacy Subgroup.
Robinson gave introductory remarks at a roundtable hosted by the U.S.-APEC Business Coalition and USCIB member Deloitte, “Driving APEC Growth Through Competitive Services and High-Quality Regulations.” The focus of Peru’s 2016 host year was on quality growth and human development. Within this context, particular attention has been devoted to the services sector, which represents a large and expanding portion of the overall economic growth and development. The event, moderated by Deloitte Global Chairman David Cruikshank, focused on APEC’s current work in the areas of services and good regulatory practices, including the APEC Services Cooperation Framework and APEC Services Competitiveness Roadmap, as well as further opportunities to drive the service sector in 2017.
Other speakers included John Andersen, deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for the Western Hemisphere; John Drummond, head of the OECD’s Trade in Services Division; and Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation; and Vietnam ABAC Chair for 2017 Hoang Van Dung. Key themes addressed included the slowing pace of liberalization in services in the APEC area, its impact on small and medium-sized businesses, and the need to reinvigorate trade.
While in Lima, Robinson and Medina participated in business meetings with the prime minister and finance minister of Peru, the president of Vietnam and Canada’s international trade minister. They also joined APEC Business Coalition members at meeting with key U.S. Congressional staff attending the summit, as well as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman, where the post-election focus was on crafting better trade deals that can address concerns voiced by everyday Americans.
Robinson and Medina attended a dinner hosted by Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Abbott and Merck KGaA, on “Driving Sustainable Health Systems to Achieve Quality Growth and Human Development.” The dinner, which featured remarks by Peruvian Health Minister Patricia García Funegra and Matt Matthews, the U.S. senior official for APEC, highlighted the region’s shared achievements to advance the APEC health agenda, which carries significant trade and investment, innovation and capacity-building components.
Statement on cross-border privacy rules
During the final day of the APEC CEO summit, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urged world leaders to invest in connecting citizens to the Internet. In a related move, eight major business groups — including USCIB, Japan’s Keidanren and ICC Mexico — released a joint statement calling on all APEC economies to expand participation in the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. An important priority for USCIB, the CBPR is a high-standard and enforceable privacy code of conduct that facilitates cross-border trade and ensures strong privacy protection of personal information. The statement commended the work done by policy makers in promoting the CBPR system, and urged the 21 APEC economies to commit to the system during 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address with a strong message in favor of open and free trade, saying that the Asia-Pacific region must lead the way in the face of slowing global growth and rising protectionism.
“President Xi clearly demonstrated that China is ready to take a leading role in APEC integration at a time when the U.S. appears to be reevaluating how it intends to engage with its economic and trading partners,” observed USCIB’s Medina.
But Robinson said that USCIB, NCAPEC and members of the U.S. APEC Business Coalition remain well-positioned to champion U.S. business interests in APEC. “The time and energy we have invested in APEC has resulted in some important accomplishments,” he said. “Whatever happens regarding a specific trade deal, the fact is that we in the United States still need APEC, and APEC needs us. I continue to have high hopes for APEC as we approach 2017.”