Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

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  • Nidhi Baraiya asked: Is the US not in favour of India getting the APEC membership?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: India’s prospective membership in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is a long-debated subject. New Delhi has been aspiring for the APEC membership for the last two decades. It had applied in 1997 and again in 2007. Earlier, India’s economy was not viewed as developed enough or sufficiently ingrained into the Asia-Pacific region to be included in the APEC.

    Ayush Sinha asked: What does India stand to gain by getting membership in APEC?

    Jagannath P. Panda replies: India's current perception of the Asia-Pacific is closely linked with the emerging facets of Asia's power politics, which includes economic integration mechanisms and maritime politics. Multiple forums, albeit with converging schema, are shaping the regional power dynamics including the security architecture in the Asia Pacific region where Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an important institution. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India has reasons to seek entry into APEC.

    Vikrant Kumar Edara Asked: What does the term “Indo-Pacific” signifies, as distinct from Asia-Pacific?

    Abhijit Singh replies: ‘Indo-Pacific’ has lately entered the geo-strategic discourse as a substitute for the more established term ‘Asia-Pacific’. The two terms, however, are fundamentally different.

    The ‘Asia Pacific’ relates to that part of Asia which lies in the Pacific Ocean. It is an idea proposed and supported by Asia’s Pacific powers who sought a term to describe their common region. The Asia Pacific, therefore, has three major constituents: north-east Asia, south-east Asia and Oceania (South Western Pacific). Despite the nomenclature suggesting to the contrary, India is not a part of the region. The Asia-Pacific is more of an economic conception, rather than a security related notion. Since the late 1980s, it has been popular as a zone of emerging markets that have been experiencing rapid economic growth. The only multilateral institution that effectively represents the Asia Pacific, therefore, is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), which does not include India.

    The Indo-Pacific, on the other hand, is an integrated theatre that combines the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and the land masses that surround them. Even though it is still an evolving concept, most analysts see it as an idea that captures the shift in power and influence from the West to the East. Its geographical expanse is still undefined but it is said to range from the coast of East Africa, across the Indian Ocean, to the Western Pacific, including countries like Japan and Australia. It is both a strategic as well as an economic domain comprising important sea-lines of communication that connect the littorals of the two oceans. Since it is primarily a maritime space, the Indo-Pacific is associated with maritime security and cooperation.

    Uthamaraj Pissonia Asked: Why APEC is not letting India join as its member?

    Abhijit Singh replies: The ostensible reason for India's non-inclusion in the APEC is its extra-regional status. APEC is essentially a group of 'Pacific' countries that came together in 1989 to form an economic community. Its guiding motive was to resist protectionist policies by individual member states, and the promotion of trade liberalisation and economic cooperation within the affiliated Asia-Pacific economies. By that description, India did not seem to fit in.

    In the past few years, however, the issue of India’s membership to the APEC has come under repeated discussion within the forum. The main impediment, apparently, has been the opposition of some participants who have held India’s record on economic reforms and WTO engagement to be unsatisfactory and unworthy of meriting inclusion as a member in the grouping.

    Since 2012, when APEC’s leaders decided not to extend the moratorium on new membership (in force since 1997), there has been a renewed push to grant membership status to India. A majority of members now believe that India must be brought into the fold for it has shown progress in reforming and liberalising its economy. Granting India membership status may also act as a catalyst for trade reform among emerging economies. Moreover, India’s maritime strength and strong strategic relations with the region’s major powers, member states point out, could be used to bring strategic balance within the grouping. But the same logic is also causing some members to oppose India's inclusion.

    India, which presently has 'observer' status, has been very keen to join the economic grouping as a full member. An Indian delegation attended the APEC Summit in Bali in October 2013, and discussions were also held earlier this year between India and Indonesia - the current chair of the APEC - on the membership question. Importantly, inclusion in the APEC might open the door for India’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

    Hurdles Ahead for Japan as the APEC Chair

    With APEC accounting for half the world’s global economic output and 44 per cent of its trade value, Japan’s role in creating a region wide free-trade zone and developing a strategy for economic growth of the Asia Pacific is expected to be decisive for the world economy.

    February 25, 2010

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