As leaders of the 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) community arrive here Friday to convene their annual meeting, CEOs of companies in the region are also kicking off their APEC CEO summit as part of the private sector input to the forum. Business leaders told Xinhua that they look to APEC to facilitate trade in the region.
David Cunningham, president of shipping giant Fedex' Asia-Pacific division, told Xinhua in an interview Friday that the CEO summit provides the business community an opportunity to connect with governments in identifying "what's important to facilitate trade, and to move economies along in a way that facilitates people and growth and enrichment."
"It produces tangible, real benefits for the economies that were involved, and it creates real opportunity for business and leaders of the various APEC economies to work together to identify key activities and key issues to resolve," said Cunningham.
The CEO summit provides the private sector opportunity to network and also audiences with government leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as ministerial officials such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
However, economic headwinds are taking a toll on the summit, as attendance of the meeting appears to fall short of expectations and is lower than at past summits.But Cunningham said that with economic difficulties in many economies, the meeting is becoming even more relevant.
"The most important thing that can happen at this summit, beyond specific agreements to facilitate trade, lower trade barriers, make it easier for the flow of goods around the globe, is the dialogue," said Cunningham
"When you have economies that are in difficult situations... it's the most important time to have those dialogues," he added, noting that the world is interconnected in ways never seen before, and significant downturn in one part of the world has real impacts to other economies.
APEC has set itself a theme of "Toward a Seamless Regional Economy," with three specific priority areas that include strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade, promoting green growth, and advancing regulatory coherence and co-operation.
The aspiration is shared by the private sector. According to a survey done by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) published on Friday, two-thirds of the more than 320 Asia-Pacific CEOs surveyed said APEC leaders should take a lead role in eliminating trade barriers, and 63 percent see free trade in APEC region as critical to business success.
As leaders work out agreements on the grand scheme, Cunningham said the private sector can make their input through participation at the CEO summit.
In interactions with senior government leaders at the summit, Cunningham said, CEOs and the leaders can have "very honest and direct dialogues back and forth in terms of particular issues that need to be addressed, or the ways that economies and business can work together."