FOCUS on APEC
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 07:30:01 -0600
Focus on APEC #14
A regular bulletin produced by Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)
Number 14 May 1997
This is the final issue of Focus-on-APEC. The next bulletin will be
renamed Focus on Trade, covering a wider range of issues. Walden Bello
will report on the WTO Symposium on Trade, Environment and Sustainable
Development, 20-21 May 1997, in Geneva, there will be news from the
upcoming round of APEC ministers meetings and an assessment of what
APEC has achieved and where it is going.
FOCUS was designated the NGO Information/Monitoring Center on APEC
(Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) by the participants of the
1995 NGO Forum on APEC in Kyoto, Japan. It was out of this
commitment that FOCUS-on-APEC was created. FOCUS-on-APEC carries
APEC-related news, the latest items of interest and concern, and
informed and critical analysis from a progressive perspective — with
a broad geographical concentration on East Asia and the Western and
FOCUS-on-APEC is where you can learn about other people’s APEC-related
work and they can learn about yours. Please send us your APEC-related
information (by e-mail, fax or snail-mail!) — including news items,
research papers, opinion pieces and information on grassroots
activities happening in your respective country. Your contributions
will be incorporated into the bulletins.
We welcome your comments and suggestions!
IN THIS ISSUE
Growth won’t be green under APEC
Report of the APEC experts group on voluntary consultative dispute
Plans for the 1997 People’s Summit on APEC International forum>
ationship between workers rights and democratic development
—————– ASIA-PACIFIC: Growth Won’t Be Green Under APEC Free
Trade Johanna Son
MANILA, Mar 20 (IPS) – Free trade in the Asia-Pacific is likely to
cause even greater damage to the environment as the economic growth of
region’s economies accelerates.
East Asia’s economic power houses have enriched themselves at a heavy
cost to nature, and it has long been evident that such growth is not
The Bangkok-based Focus On The Global South, in a report for the ‘Rio
Plus Five’ conference on the environment that ended Wednesday in
Brazil, said free trade conflicts with long-term environmental
”The rapid industrialisation of the Asia-Pacific region has produced
an environmental situation that can only be described as bordering on
crisis,” said the report written by Walden Bello and Nicola Bullard
Yet the governments of 18 Asia-Pacific economies are pursuing efforts
to institutionalise free trade within the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Formed in 1989, APEC spans North and Latin America to South-east Asia
and Pacific and aims to tear down all barriers to trade and investment
by the year 2020.
Its members are Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea,
Brunei, Mexico, Chile, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and
APEC was meant to be a loose consultative forum aimed at discussing
not only freeing up trade but pursuing technical and development
cooperation. But pressures from the industrialised economies are
pushing APEC to focus more on its free trade goal, despite doubts by
developing member economies.
In the process the environment is not getting enough attention,
despite rhetoric among APEC members about integrating ”sustainable
development” concerns in their discussions, said the report called
‘APEC And The Environment: A Report To The Rio +Five Conference’.
Focus concludes that APEC is an unlikely vehicle for nature-friendly
growth, or for reconciling its aims of freer trade and investment
with environmental protection..
”The body’s (APEC) commitment to preserving the environment in the
Asia-Pacific is largely rhetorical and has not been backed up by
effective programmes,” it said.
Most of East Asia’s tiger economies have paid a high price for their
industrialisation in the last three decades, making their cities
extreme health hazards.
South Korea’s industrialisation is largely responsible for filthy air
in Seoul, which has one of the world’s highest sulphur dioxide levels.
Focus cited studies showing that cancer rates have doubled in Taiwan
since 1960 and that children in Bangkok have among the highest levels
of lead in blood due to air pollution.
A large number of Asia’s rivers are degraded or dead, even as its
capitals race to build the highest skyscrapers and the biggest
shopping malls. In China, up to 30 percent of the agricultural land
are degraded, lost to erosion or converted into urban real estate
since the 1950s.
Deforestation remains a concern in many South-east Asian countries,
and this year’s ‘State of the World’s Forests’ report says tropical
Asia-Oceania still has the highest rates for forest loss at nearly one
percent a year.
And as Asia strives to catch with the industrialised economies of the
world, it is also producing more greenhouse gases. The region’s carbon
dioxide emissions are expected to rise from the current 25 percent of
global production to 36 percent by 2025.
Some of these concerns–from the liveability of cities to the state of
the marine environment–were discussed in meetings leading up the 1996
APEC summit in the Philippines and endorsed by President Fidel Ramos,
who was APEC chair last year.
At one point, Ramos said: ”We finally stand on the threshold of
unprecedented growth and change. That threshold–unless we watch our