The value of APEC to Australia

newnham_simon By Simon Newnham, Australian Ambassador for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)


As Australia’s Ambassador to APEC, I am very excited to have been part of Papua New Guinea’s APEC year.

This year has been particularly special. Australia and our good friend and closest neighbour Papua New Guinea, share close historical and economic ties, as well as strong personal links. Australia was pleased to have supported Papua New Guinea’s hosting of APEC this year through leading international security support, and providing policy guidance to Papua New Guinea. Importantly, we believe our assistance will have an enduring benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea beyond its APEC year.

In my policy discussions with Papua New Guinean officials in Port Moresby, it has been wonderful to see their deep understanding of APEC’s values reflected in their proactive focus on balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth.

The Annual APEC Leaders Week has now drawn to a close Papua New Guinea’s host year. A Leaders Declaration, which would have articulated an economic vision for the region, was unfortunately not able to be agreed and released at the conclusion of the meeting this year due to differences of view within APEC over global trade. However, a declaration was subsequently released, and reflects the consensus of all APEC economies on the overwhelming majority of trade and economic policy issues. The outcome on the declaration should not overshadow the significant economic contribution that APEC has made and continues to make in advancing regional growth and development.

I would like to highlight just how valuable APEC has been for our region. It has advanced trade and investment liberalisation and played a significant role in the transformation of the Asia Pacific into the most dynamic economic region in the world.

Since 1992, APEC’s total trade in goods and services increased more than 5.3 times to $21,759 trillion in 2017, with even more today.

The Asia Pacific region’s real GDP has more than doubled to over US$43 trillion since the creation of APEC in 1989.

In 2017, the region enjoyed a 4.1% economic growth rate – compared to 3.4% in the rest of the world.

And average tariffs in APEC economies have come down from around 17% in 1989 to under 6% today.

APEC’s member economies are home to more than 2.9 billion people and make up over half of global GDP. Twelve of our top fifteen trading partners are APEC economies. APEC economies also make up more than 70 per cent of Australia’s total trade in goods and services. Closer regional economic integration contributes to Australian economic growth and prosperity.

It has been a privilege to have seen in person the benefits the forum offers.

It brings countries together to discuss global trade, facilitating dialogue at a time when some are questioning its merits.

It is a platform for countries to share technical expertise – making governments more efficient and effective.

And most importantly, it provides an opportunity to help shape new rules and standards, and seek to foster free and open trade and investment in the region.

These rules have contributed to massive growth in our region, a reduction in global inequality and unprecedented prosperity for many citizens in both the developed and developing world. APEC is a vital platform to continue to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth within the region. Australia has been a major player in this process from the formation of APEC in 1989, to hosting APEC in 2007 and supporting Papua New Guinea in 2018. Australia will continue to use APEC to advocate for a global rules-based multilateral trading system, and to advance global rules on digital trade. We are confident that APEC can play a key role in establishing norms on how governments cooperate on technology, facilitating benefits and mitigating risks.

The future of our region is tied to the future of APEC. With APEC’s continued efforts on sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth, and a focus on free and open trade, we hope to see everyone in our region reap the rewards.

Congratulations to Papua New Guinea on an incredible and vibrant APEC through 2018. We look forward to working with Chile during its 2019 APEC host year.

2 thoughts on “The value of APEC to Australia

  1. Elisabeth Perrin

    Dear Simon, many thanks for your post. I’m very interested to know your perspectives on what are DFAT’s priorities in terms of its relations with APEC in 2019? Also, the fact that the Annual APEC week will be in Chile in 2019, do the priorities shift to Latin America a bit more? As Australian Ambassador for APEC, what do you see as the main challenges and opportunities of APEC in the years to come? Thanks so much, Elisabeth Perrin

    1. Hi Elisabeth, thanks for taking the time to ask these questions.

      Australia’s APEC priorities in 2019 align with Australia’s broader foreign and trade policy objectives as outlined in the Foreign Policy White Paper. Central to this is continuing to support open markets, to advocate for the rules-based multilateral trading system and for the integrity of the WTO. We are also focused on what practical work the Australian Government can take forward in APEC in areas including digital trade, services and investment, as well as supporting an inclusive growth agenda in areas such as empowering women, particularly female entrepreneurs. As APEC Ambassador, I look at how Australia, across our government departments and in consultation with business, can build practical work in APEC towards achieving these ends.

      Although each APEC year allows the host economy to set their own priorities, APEC’s work is continuous and advances its core agenda by building on the previous year’s diverse work. In 2019, Chile is prioritising work on developing a digital society, innovation, increasing opportunities for women, SMEs and indigenous groups, and pursuing inclusive and sustainable growth (see

      There are challenges for APEC particularly as concerns about globalisation and levels of economic nationalism in many countries are on the rise. APEC’s ability to bring countries together to discuss these issues, share technical expertise, and help shape new rules and standards to foster free and open trade and investment in the region will take on increased importance. APEC is itself looking introspectively, at its purpose and agenda post-2020, which presents an opportunity for Australia to be part of the process to define APEC into the future.

      Thanks again.

      Simon Newnham, Ambassador to APEC

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