Ministers endorse e-APEC plan

Leaders from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) have endorsed a plan aimed at putting information technology to work to help strengthen regional economies and promote domestic growth.

At their weekend summit in Shanghai, APEC leaders approved the APEC strategy – APEC’s answer to the challenges presented by the new economy of online trade and services. The e-APEC strategy covers three main areas: the strengthening of market structures and institutions; encouraging investment in infrastructure and the development of technology for online commerce; and promoting entrepreneurship and IT training for people.

Among the key points of the strategy is a call to increase competition in public utilities, such as telecommunication carriers – something that is already underway, to differing degrees, in most APEC member states.

Underlining the positive effects of competition on increasing efficiency, the strategy document set out as a goal to “reduce barriers to competition and maintain an open policy stance for international trade and investment so as to reduce the costs of hardware, software and services, improve international standards and promote e-commerce.”

Intellectual property (IP) issues in the digital age were also covered and the strategy document called on member states to establish legal frameworks to support IP and to implement the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty, Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the Berne Convention and the Rome Convention.

Several legal topics were also touched upon in the strategy.

APEC members agreed upon the Model Law on Electronic Commerce developed by UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) as the basis for a legal framework to ensure consumers have as much trust in e-commerce as conventional transactions. Continuing work on electronic signatures and seals was also supported as was increased privacy and data protection of consumers and the need to work on international security of communications networks.

Recognizing the danger of continued growth of the digital divide, the strategy also set out support for cooperation between the public and private sectors to improve basic infrastructure in rural areas and to create not just basic education but greater training opportunities for people. Completion of the APEC Digital Divide Blueprint for Action was also supported.

Measuring the success of the goals set out in the strategy document, which encompasses many areas, won’t be easy. But the call also went out to member nations to ensure the steps agreed upon are taken.

“We encourage economies to participate actively and contribute to concrete steps that will build on the action agenda of the e-APEC Strategy,” said the document. The job of ensuring action is taken was left in the hands of ministers and senior officials from APEC member nations although the document stopped short of spelling out time frames in which to achieve the goals.

A full summary of the E-APEC Strategy can be found online at

APEC is a 21-member group comprising of Pacific Rim nations including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.