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                       Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Auckland, New Zealand)

For Immediate Release September 12, 1999


Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

President Clinton travels to Auckland, New Zealand for the 1999 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting. The APEC forum was established in 1989 to promote economic integration in the Pacific region and to sustain economic growth. APEC currently has 21 members: 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; Republic of the Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the United States of America; and Vietnam.

Recognizing the value of top-level meetings to advance the work of APEC, President Clinton decided in 1993 to invite member economies' leaders to Blake Island, Washington, to meet informally to discuss major issues of concern and interest to the APEC region. This top-level gathering of economic leaders has become an integral part of APEC, advancing a vision of APEC as a means to increase the region's prosperity based on the concepts of mutual economic benefit, cooperation, and commitment to free and open trade.

The United States is actively engaged in APEC because the economic health of its members has become vitally important to our own economic well-being. In 1998, U.S. trade with APEC totaled over $1.035 trillion, roughly two-thirds of U.S. trade with the world. U.S. exports to APEC increased 70% from 1990-97, although they fell in 1998 by about 4 per cent as a result of the Asian financial crisis. In 1997 exports from the U.S. to APEC totaled $432.6 billion and in 1998 they had dropped to $415.7 billion. U.S. imports from APEC increased 69% from 1990-1997 and continued to rise during the financial crisis. Imports from APEC in 1997 totaled about $589.3 billion and rose to about $620.5 billion in 1998. These trade figures alone underscore that the United States is already tightly bound to the region, and the underlying trends suggest this interdependence will only grow in the future. It also underscores how important the continued vibrancy of the U.S. economy has been to pulling the region out of the crisis, even at the cost of a rising trade deficit with the region. Fostering strong and sustainable growth in APEC economies would help to reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

The financial crisis has only served to underscore this interdependence and the need to follow prudent economic policies. APEC's efforts complement the important work being done by the International Monetary Fund and other International Financial Institutions. APEC has helped to promote and sustain economic recovery in the region, encouraging member economies to pursue macroeconomic policies that stimulate domestic demand and restructure financial and corporate sectors. APEC is promoting strengthened markets through increased transparency, openness and predictability based on the rule of law. It seeks to eliminate impediments to trade and investment and meet the goals it set in Bogor, Indonesia, in 1994 of free trade for the developed countries by 2010 and for the developing countries by 2020.

APEC can serve a crucial role in advancing long-term projects and initiatives that will assist APEC members to reform their economies and implement the kind of changes that will make them stronger so that they can resume their remarkable economic progress. It also can help to foster development of the physical and human capital necessary to sustain growth in the 21st century.

APEC is also a forum to discuss the social dimensions of trade, including environmental concerns. Climate change, for example, featured prominently in discussions in 1997 prior to the Kyoto Conference. APEC working groups have sought to address global and regional issues related to sustainable economic growth. In addition, APEC has sought to address the social impact of the financial crisis that has had a major negative impact on the poorer members of Asia-Pacific societies by promoting the development of small and medium size enterprises that create jobs and the strengthening of social safety nets.

Finally, APEC is a multilateral forum that seeks direct private sector input to encourage the sharing of best business practices. For example, public-private collaboration on customs projects is becoming a model for the positive benefits that the public sector can derive from partnership with business constituents.

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