APEC on track despite frictions over regional trade says Executive Director Bollard

Preparations for the APEC  Leaders Week next month in Port Moresby are going well, according to Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. He tells Business Advantage PNG that the policy work is paying off and the logistical preparations are sound, but there are some tensions over regional trade.

APEC hosting a discussion series. Source: APEC

‘It is a very big job hosting APEC,’ says Bollard.

‘PNG made an undertaking to host it some years ago and it was always going to require a lot of work to take forward—and a lot of resources as well.

‘They did put in a lot of thinking a couple of years ago and that has paid off—so, generally, the policy side I rate as progressing pretty well.’

Bollard does note, however, that APEC’s focus on the digital delivery of technology has had its limits from a PNG perspective.

‘There have been probably 200 meetings so far.’

‘We have to remember that it is in an economy with very limited broadband access—that is quite a big ask.

Story continues after advertisment...

‘But there has been good policy stuff and some very good meetings. Whoever is chairing the meetings has done really well.’

Infrastructure

APEC’s Alan Bollard Source: APEC

Bollard says Port Moresby can expect major demands in November.

‘It was always going to be a big stretch on infrastructure and other facilities.

‘There have been probably 200 meetings so far.’

For Leaders Week, starting November 12, there will be ‘thousands of people’ arriving.

‘It is going to be difficult and quite complex.

‘It is a time when the space gets taken over, not so much by the policy people or even the logistics people, but by the security people and the protocol people.

‘They start running the joint and that can always get quite complex, with very big demands.

‘You have leaders from most, if not all, of the 21 economies. It is hard to handle.’

Congestion

Bollard says the conference centre at the newly-opened APEC Haus has been ‘tested’ and is standing up well.

He believes there is less likely to be a problem with traffic congestion in Port Moresby than many other cities in the region.

‘Trade frictions, especially between the United States and China, have made the chairing of meetings sometimes difficult.’

‘We are still yet to judge how much will be hubbed out of Cairns, or anywhere else.

‘[The American Vice President Mike] Pence is likely to be staying in Cairns and will fly in and fly out.

‘That helps in one respect, but it complicates it in another.

‘If they are all flying it really takes up the air space and air traffic control will become a really crucial issue.’

Friction

Bollard says trade frictions, especially between the United States and China, have made the chairing of meetings sometimes difficult.

‘Everything in APEC is done by agreement; if you can’t get full agreement, there is no outcome.

‘When there are differences in views about trade it becomes quite complex.’

‘That has been pretty hard going and we will see how that will come together.

‘There are various drafts going around at the moment collecting up views from the different economies.

‘When there are differences in views about trade, it becomes quite complex. PNG has had to steer a line between the powers in terms of getting something we can all sign up to on that.‘

‘It is a little bit harder to get cooperation around the table when there are those frictions going on.

‘They are not Papua New Guinea-related things, they are APEC-related rules of trade.

‘But it is for Papua New Guinea to manage it and it is not an easy year in that sense.’

Middle level

Bollard says despite the tensions between the United States and China there are still many areas of consensus.

‘We are getting strong push-back from many other APEC economies who still want to see a lot of growth driven from increasing trade.

‘We are finding a number of middle-level economies in APEC taking leadership.’

Speak Your Mind

*