- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2009

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit about to begin in Singapore coincides with the 20th anniversary of this influential regional grouping’s founding. I think this is an opportune moment to look back over its achievements so far and outline its key tasks for the period ahead.

Today, APEC has established itself clearly as a powerful engine for integration in the Asia-Pacific region and a generator of new ideas contributing to regional development. Over these last 20 years, the forum has become an independent and crucially important factor in the global economy and politics, and its role will continue to grow.

What is the secret of APEC’s success? We can find the answer to this question in the concluding statement of the first APEC ministerial meeting that took place in November 1989 in Canberra. It emphasizes that the organization will build cooperation based on principles such as recognition of the differing social and economic systems and levels of development of the APEC’s member economies, voluntary choice, commitment to open dialogue and consensus, and equal respect for the views of all participants. Combining these principles has enabled APEC to stimulate investment cooperation, resolve international and regional trade issues and much more.

The dialogue on the global economic crisis further confirms the forum’s effectiveness, flexible approach and ability to make the needed responses to global change. Of course, each individual economy is battling the crisis based on its own priorities and possibilities, but it is always useful to study partner countries’ positive experience. APEC offers the tools we need to organize just this kind of active exchange of positive experience.

APEC’s agenda is not limited to economic matters alone. The forum’s participants are constantly engaged in the search for joint answers to the challenges we face today in guaranteeing security and social protection for millions of people.

Over the years, APEC has proven multipolar diplomacy’s viability in practice. Joint efforts and equal involvement of its members in the search for solutions to our common problems is the basis of the forum’s work. I am certain that this is the guarantee of APEC’s success now and in the future.

Russia has built up invaluable experience of cooperation with its APEC colleagues since we joined the forum in 1998. We have always been actively involved in resolving the issues of greatest urgency and concern, not only at the summits and ministerial meetings, but also through the ongoing painstaking work in the forum’s various expert committees and groups. As in the other international organizations, we seek to be a reliable and responsible partner within APEC.

Russia wants Siberia and the Russian Far East to be directly involved in regional integration. We did not join APEC empty-handed. We have much to offer our partners, not just abundant reserves of oil, gas and various minerals, biological resources and fresh water, but also the no less competitive asset of the science-and-technology, industrial and intellectual potential that the eastern part of our country possesses.

We are open to diverse and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Our main reference point in this area is the preparation for Russia’s chairmanship of the forum in 2012. This honorary mission carries with it great responsibilities and comes with many obligations. We will do everything necessary to ensure that the APEC summit in Vladivostok is productive and of the highest quality.

“Sustaining Growth, Connecting the Region” is the slogan for APEC’s work this year. In Singapore, we will discuss a broad range of anti-crisis measures, most of them related to the decisions taken at their recent summit by the leaders of the G-20 countries (the 20 largest world economies), where almost one half of APEC members took part. Discussions will examine, of course, the steps needed to reform the global financial system and make it fairer and more balanced. If we do not do this, the global economy will remain in danger of more crises in the future.

Although the world has not put all the economic difficulties behind it yet, the forum will nonetheless examine optimum models for APEC’s economic development in the post-crisis period. I think this is a farsighted and effective decision, for we need to prepare in advance for the next stage in global economic growth.

Like the other APEC leaders, I share the view that economic growth should be not only sustainable but also universal. We need to bring growth to all countries and all economic sectors, and bring its fruits to all members of society, above all the most vulnerable groups - children and the elderly, unemployed people, and people with disabilities.

I think the corporate social responsibility concept currently being discussed actively in APEC is vitally important. It has particular relevance for the companies and financial institutions receiving state support during the economic downturn period.

I also share the predominant view in APEC on protectionism in global trade. This kind of state support should be targeted and only a temporary measure. Each country makes a priority of supporting its own producers, of course, but excessive protectionist barriers that create hothouse conditions for unprofitable businesses run counter to the principles of free competition and ultimately do more harm than good to a country’s business development.

Russia is ready to take part in continued regional economic integration and cooperate on other issues on the APEC agenda. We want to exchange experience and work together on innovative development and spreading the use of advanced technology and computerization. In accordance with the commitment to the Bogor Goals - building a system of free and open trade and investment activity in the Asia-Pacific region - that we declared when we joined APEC, we will work with our partners on enhancing economic legislation, carrying out structural reform, ensuring transparency and preventing corruption, developing small businesses and microenterprises, and activating public-private partnerships.

The review of Russia’s individual action in APEC, carried out in July 2009, showed that our country has made considerable progress in these and other areas.

We will continue to build up cooperation on guaranteeing food, energy, transport, environmental and information security throughout the APEC region.

Our work together on guaranteeing personal security and emergency-situation management is also set to move to a new level. The fight against international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking and piracy continues to call for our closest attention.

I would like to conclude by congratulating the APEC forum on its 20 anniversary and wishing it a successful road forward to our common goal of building a harmonious and prosperous Asia-Pacific community and guaranteeing stability security and prosperity for our peoples.

Dmitry Medvedev is the president of Russia.

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