Let’s host the Santiago Apec summit in Kuala Lumpur now — Rais Hussin

NOVEMBER 1 — Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), according to Professor Paul Evans at University of British Columbia, one of the most astute observers, are four letters seeking for a noun.

When conceived in 1989, Australia conceptualised it under the late Prime Minister Bob Hawke, subsequently, Paul Keating, both from the liberal wing of the Labor Party of Australia, to promote further engagement with Asian Pacific region.

Entities like Pacific Basin Economic Basin (PBEC), which is still around, was meant to be the track two commercial arm of Apec. Business executives from around the region, would feed their ideas, on how to enhance the quality and quantity of growth in the region.

The likes of Ross Garnaut in Australian National University, and the late Professor Saburo Ienaga, in Japan, were two of the pioneers of PBEC since 1960s. 

In Indonesia, the late Dr Hadi Soeastro, at Center of Strategic and International Studies, wrote a beautiful article describing the intellectual history of PBEC, leading to Apec. 

In 1994, the Bogor Declaration, with the agreement of President Bill Clinton, and other trade partners, agreed on “sectoral liberalisation”, where the trading states in and across Asia Pacific — now more familiarly known as Indo-Pacific — would stick to a time line to liberalise their economies sector by sector, without fail. 

To the degree it slowed down, the Osaka Declararion in 2002 re-affirmed the importance of the Bogor Declaration, agreed in Indonesia. And, this was seconded and backed by PBEC. In Malaysia, the leading member of PBEC was the late Dr Nordin Sopiee, a top advisor to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed who died too early due to his affliction with cancer.

What the above intellectual history shows is simple: whether it is Chile hosting or cancelling Apec, all the respective governments respect Apec. When President Donald Trump did not attend the Apec Summit in Papua New Guinea in 2018, he entrusted the responsibility of representating him to Vice President Mike Peace.

It was in New Guinea, when Vice President Mike Peace, echoing the view of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was engaged in “predatory economics” and “debt trap diplomacy”.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, Chile cannot host the Apec Summit in Santiago, at a very very (emphasis of the author) critical period of the global economic growth, or potentially, lack of it 

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have begun warning that the mere loosening of financial policy alone, or the reduction of interest rate across all 30 central reserve banks, cannot ward off the real possibility of a global economic recession. And, Malaysia is in the thick of it, due to Malaysia’s role as a trading state.

Therefore, if Chile cannot host the summitry in November 2019, due to massive street riots that was the result of a 4 cent increase in the metro train transportation, many people across the Asia Pacific or Indo Pacific are financially skating on thin ice.

Malaysia, having accepted the responsibility, to take over from Chile — coupled with his deep understanding of how APEC works — should make Apec happen in Kuala Lumpur by December 2019. Why ?

First and foremost, the fate of the global trading regime rests on it. Second, Datuk Sta Maria, the former Secretary General of Miti, is herself the Secretary General Apec Secretariat based in Singapore. Her husband S. Jayasankaran was a former financial reporter of Far Eastern Economic Review, with a focus on Malaysian economy. Put two and two together, you have a repository of talent who can host the Apec Summit in Putrajaya in less than two months.

Malaysia should go for it. With India threatening punitive measure on Malaysia, what better platform to address this issue as soon as possible, then in the heart of capital of Malaysia, which incidentally has the Regional Arbitration Centre.

Malaysia should fight for the global welfare of all in the world. It should not run away or wait until next year, or, be frozen by the enormity of the task.

Two months are enough to pivot the summit, where 95 per cent of the work had already been done anyway. The Minister of International Trade and Industry Darrel Leiking has the energy and drive to make it happen, as is the whole of the Malaysian Cabinet.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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