APEC labelled a forum for rhetoric

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 1994, 12:00am

MALAYSIA'S International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz lashed out at the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC) yesterday, accusing it of turning the body into a forum for rhetoric and failing to provide for participation from the private sector.

She was responding to a question on how the Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC) could work better with APEC.

She said APEC was supposed to be a forum where ministers and officials met to try and formulate programmes and projects with input and participation for the private sector.

However, she said none of those projects had taken off and now ''APEC seems to be a forum for rhetoric''.

She said: ''People talk about Pacific community and summit leaders' meetings, statements are issued left and right [but] I myself do not know where we are going at ministerial meetings . . . I do not know where the private sector input is coming from.'' Countries like Malaysia wanted to put APEC back on the right track and focus on how the private sector could ''benefit from all the hot air that comes out of APEC'', she said.

APEC leaders hauled themselves off to islands for meetings and then issued ''vision statements'', she said.

However, she said nowhere in the ''visions'' were there practical programmes which benefitted the private sector.

''[This way] PBEC and APEC will never meet. But if APEC is brought back on track, there will be room for a constructive role for PBEC and the private sector. Malaysia wants to make sure it's not just another talk-shop,'' she said.

Rizalino Navarro, the Philippine Secretary for Trade and Industry, said he hoped APEC could use the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a model as far as private sector input was concerned.