The challenges facing APEC
Updated 13:16, 17-Nov-2018
CGTN's Greg Navarro
One of the main priorities for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) when it was created nearly three decades ago was to foster trade across the region.
And the 2018 meeting in Port Moresby is no different.
“There is no question that what APEC hopes to address is the importance of free trade,” said Think Global Consulting CEO David Thomas.
But this year's meeting is presented with a different global environment, and one where promoting trade has become increasingly difficult.
APEC Papua New Guinea 2018 is being held in Port Moresby from November 12 to 18, 2018. / VCG Photo

APEC Papua New Guinea 2018 is being held in Port Moresby from November 12 to 18, 2018. / VCG Photo

“I suppose the biggest challenge that APEC faces is that it stands for trade liberalization and free trade, and the world is going in the other direction, and so this agenda that they want to push, which is free trade, is always going to be under many headwinds right now,” said Thomas.
There is a theory that APEC and other trade organizations can help in the event of a trade war, and act as a kind of buffer against the impacts.
“You could argue that the greatest push for free trade is coming from China and the Asia-Pacific region which probably has the most to gain from open markets, particularly the US and the West being open. And so in a sense, APEC represents a pretty strong pressure group around maintaining those trade links and I am sure we will hear a lot more about that,” said Thomas.
Some economists believe that APEC has focused so much on promoting trade and investment that it has lost sight of some of the other economic needs for many countries, including developing nations. 
“It drifted into tariffs when really it was about capacity building, so you don't just open up your economies, you've got to build education and skills and the labor market with it too, and you will have more success,” said University of New South Wales economics professor Tim Harcourt. “I think it went probably too far down the trade liberalization path without thinking about other things that matter in the economy.”
And with the rise in prominence of other trade organizations including ASEAN and the G20, APEC also faces the challenge of remaining as relevant as it was when world leaders gathered for the first meeting 29 years ago.