As Xi-Biden Meet, NDTV Explains What Is APEC And Why India Is Not A Member

This year, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week is being held in San Francisco.

New Delhi:

Union Minister Piyush Goyal is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the United States today, which will also see US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hold their second in-person dialogue since Mr Biden assumed office in 2021, amid tensions and a trust deficit between the two countries. 

A meeting between the leaders of the two largest economies and two great military powers in the world would be significant at any point, but it assumes even more importance now as there are two polarising wars going on – between Israel and Hamas and Russia and Ukraine – and the relationship between the two countries has taken a hit because of the Taiwan issue, trade tensions and sanctions.

APEC Formation, Membership

Formed in 1989, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping has 21 members, but India is not one of them. It had made a request to join the grouping in 1991, the year which saw the introduction of liberalisation and entirely changed the shape and trajectory of the Indian economy.  While a majority of members are in favour of India’s inclusion, some have opposed it, citing the country’s record on economic reforms and claiming that it has’ protectionist instincts’.

Another reason for India not being included in the grouping was a membership freeze, which was in force since 1997 but was not extended in 2012. 

The current members of the grouping are Australia, Brunei, Hong Kong (which the APEC website refers to as Hong Kong, China), New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). The grouping’s focus is on economies, rather than countries, which is why Hong Kong and Taiwan, which China claims as its own, participate separately.

According to a Reuters report, APEC accounts for about 62% of global GDP and almost half of global trade. It operates on the basis of non-binding commitments with decisions reached by consensus and commitments undertaken on a voluntary basis

Aims This Year

This year, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week is being held in San Francisco. According to the Reuters report, the US has chosen the theme “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All” for APEC 2023. It says it aims for an “interconnected, innovative, and inclusive” region and “to advance a free, fair, and open economic policy agenda that benefits US workers, businesses, and families.”

As of 2021, APEC members made up seven of the United States’ top 10 overall trading partners and Washington is expected to play up the relative strength of its economy in challenging times – a veiled comparison with difficulties China has faced after years of spectacular growth.

When US President Joe Biden was asked ahead of the meeting what he expected to achieve during his dialogue with Mr Jinping, he said he wanted “to get back on a normal course of corresponding; being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another if there’s a crisis; being able to make sure our (militaries) still have contact with one another.”

The other key leaders at the meeting will be Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Russia will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk.

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