THE inter-governmental Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) organisation has been forecast to become the region's dominant trade association with stronger backing from the United States and Japan. Pacific Rim Forum chairman Allan Carroll said: ''In the past, APEC had lukewarm official response from the United States and Japan as they were unsure as to how it might work. ''In the last month, both countries have given their support for the organisation.'' Mr Carroll said that with both countries firmly behind APEC, the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad ''has clearly been supplanted by much stronger support for the APEC approach to looking at the region and atissues based on the region. ''For the next two to three years, this [APEC] is going to be the mechanism that the region will be working on.'' The Pacific Rim Forum focuses on issues and trends of strategic significance to international companies in the region. Despite his optimism about APEC, Mr Carroll highlighted doubts about the long-term future of the organisation. ''The reason for the cynicism is the question of whether there is enough of a partnership between US and Asia and a common view between them on what needs to be done to sustain the organisation,'' he said. Mr Carroll said the issues facing APEC would head the agenda at this year's Pacific Rim Forum, to be held in September. ''The new Clinton administration stance towards China and Japan, the concepts of managed trade - the beauty of this meeting is that every key issue will be so much clearer by the time it comes up in September.'' On what Hongkong stood to gain from APEC, he said: ''Hongkong is strategically part of China. That is how it is seen and that's how it is managed.''