On November 19, 1995, the third informal summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was held in Osaka, Japan. Leaders from 18 member states and regions, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin, attended the event.
An Action Agenda was adopted at the meeting for the implementation of trade and investment liberalization within APEC, and members pledged their commitment to the agenda.
APEC formulated the initial vision for free trade and investment at its 1993 Seattle summit and set a timetable at the Bogor summit last year. According to the Bogor Declaration, developed economies of APEC should achieve trade and investment liberalization by 2010 and the developing members by 2020.
The Action Agenda, the top priority of the Osaka meeting, designated the 1996 APEC meeting in the Philippines for assessing preparations for concrete action plans. "Overall implementation of the action plans will begin in 1997 and will be reviewed annually," the Agenda states.
The Agenda also emphasizes the importance of economic and technical cooperation between members as one of the three pillars of APEC after liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and reaffirms the principles of non-discrimination against and flexibility with the less-developed members. "We will achieve the long-term goal of free and open trade and investment in several ways," the agenda said.
China, a major trading power within APEC, made an important contribution to the meeting. President Jiang outlined five principles for conducting regional economic cooperation and declared a reduction of import tariffs on more than 4,000 items by at least 30 percent, effective from 1996.
During his stay in Osaka, Jiang met with leaders of Japan, the Philippines, Canada, Singapore, Mexico, Australia and the United States. He exchanged views with them on economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. The talks were conducive to the development of ties between China and these countries, and the enhancement of regional cooperation based on mutual benefit.
Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen also announced other measures toward implementing the Osaka Action Agenda. In addition to the tariff cuts, China will move to lift tariff quotas and import control measures on more than 170 categories of products. It will also carry out trial operation of Sino-foreign joint venture foreign-trade enterprises in Shanghai and other cities. The country will, furthermore, continue to expand trial operation of Sino-foreign joint-venture retail enterprises. Finally, Qian announced, China will bring buying and selling of foreign exchange by foreign-invested enterprises into the comprehensive system of exchange settlement by the banks in China.
These measures were highly welcomed as a great step toward trade and investment liberalization of the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.
The principle of flexibility with individual members in the Agenda indicates a collective willingness to maintain unity within APEC and to accommodate differences among members.
The world economy has undergone tremendous changes recently. The formation of the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement have made it imperative for Asia-Pacific nations to form a regional economic group of their own. APEC came into existence as a result of such considerations. Consisting of 18 member countries and regions, it constitutes over 40 percent of the world's total population and 56 percent of the world's total gross national product. In addition, 44 percent of world trade is conducted by APEC members.
China believes APEC should be an organization that promotes trade and investment liberalization and economic and technical cooperation. It should be based on unilaterism and voluntarism while capable of taking coordinated collective actions. Furthermore, APEC should, while seeking common interests for the entire region, respect the rights and interests of individual members. Finally, it should be an open organization to both intra-regional and extra-regional markets.