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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, is the leading forum in the Asia-Pacific community to facilitate trade and investment, economic growth, and regional cooperation. The main objectives of APEC are to develop and strengthen the multilateral trading system, increase the interdependence and prosperity of member economies, and promote sustainable economic growth in the region.

Comprised of twenty-one “member economies,” APEC is an intergovernmental forum that operates on the basis of non-binding commitments, open dialogue and equal respect for the views of all participants. APEC membership includes: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Philippines; the Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei (Taiwan); Thailand; the United States of America; Viet Nam.

Unlike the World Trade Organization or other multilateral trade bodies, APEC work is non-binding. Decisions made within APEC are reached by consensus, and commitments are undertaken on a voluntary basis. Despite this, however, APEC has contributed to the progressive reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade in the region over time, leading to the expansion of economic growth and international trade in the region.

Key to achieving APEC's vision are what are referred to as the 'Bogor Goals' of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialized economies, and by 2020 for developing economies. These goals were adopted by Leaders at their 1994 meeting in Bogor, Indonesia (see link in Resources box for more information).

A significant achievement by APEC at the 2012 APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, was agreement on a commercially and environmentally credible APEC List of Environmental Goods on which APEC economies will cut tariffs to 5 percent or less, as was agreed by Leaders in 2011.

The APEC List includes 54 environmental goods, including such core products as solar panels, gas and wind turbines, filters, soot removers, waste incinerators, and air and water quality monitors. Reducing tariffs on these environmental goods will help APEC businesses and citizens access important environmental technologies at lower cost, which in turn will produce environmental benefits and improve the quality of life across the region.

Tariff cuts on these products will contribute importantly to President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal to double exports in five years, given that $1.2 billion in U.S. exports in these products face tariffs above 5 percent. Tariffs on some of these products are as high as 35 percent.

Tariff cuts on these products will also contribute significantly to APEC’s trade and investment and green growth goals. APEC regional trade in the products on the APEC List of Environmental Goods in 2010 totaled $185 billion, and APEC makes up 60% of world exports of these products.

U.S. Trade and Investment Liberalization Initiatives at APEC

USTR represents the United States on critical trade and investment liberalization initiatives at APEC, with the goal of delivering for U.S. exporters concrete and meaningful results that break down barriers to trade in the Asia-Pacific, create jobs, promote economic integration, and contribute to global economic growth. Examples of recent trade and investment liberalization initiatives at APEC include:

• Addressing barriers to trade impacting environmental goods and services;

• Advancing next generation trade and investment issues, such as promoting effective, non-discriminatory, and market-driven innovation policies;

• Improving supply chain performance in the Asia-Pacific;

• Promoting good regulatory practices in such areas as public consultations, assessing the impact of regulations, and internal coordination of rule-making;

• Promoting regulatory cooperation in key sectors such as chemicals, life sciences, and autos;

• Working on trade-distorting local content requirements; and

• Promoting trade policies conducive to green growth, such as alignment of standards in the areas of green buildings, smart grid interoperability, and energy-efficiency.