Meeting of APEC Mining Ministers
Hon Ian Macfarlane, Chair of MRM3
APEC Mining Ministers and Delegates
I am glad to have this opportunity to speak at this meeting of APEC Mining Ministers. This meeting is taking place at a particularly important time for APEC as it seeks to reinvigorate itself and to streamline its activities through an ambitious reform agenda. It is my pleasure to speak to you about the challenges that APEC faces as it looks to becoming more effective in the pursuit of its vision and the execution of its tasks, and to pose to you this question - where should mining best fit into the APEC agenda?
In the context of the overall process of APEC reform, this is an important issue for this meeting. As with all other events under the APEC banner, this meeting needs to be very focused on how it contributes to APEC's ultimate goals.
Indeed, as well as ongoing reform activities, APEC Leaders have set a challenging and ambitious agenda for 2007.
I will get back to APEC reform in a moment. But before doing so, I would like to give you some background to APEC's current priorities - particularly where they relate to the issues that are relevant to this meeting.
The first priority on the APEC agenda is working towards strengthening the multilateral trading system to advance free trade and investment. For APEC economies the WTO remains the primary mechanism by which we aim to attain free and open trade. APEC Leaders agreed in 2006 that moving beyond current positions in the key areas of the WTO DDA negotiations will help to ensure a balanced outcome to the Round. This includes major players making deeper reductions in trade-distorting farm support, creating new market access in agriculture, making real cuts in industrial tariffs and establishing new openings in services trade. A key issue for APEC this year is to determine how APEC can assist in achieving progress in the DDA in what, to date, has been a very difficult process of negotiation.
Free Trade Arrangements and Regional Trade Agreements are an important component for strengthening the multilateral trading system as well as useful mechanisms for regional integration. Ten years ago there were only three intra-APEC FTAs - now there are 20 and at least a dozen under development. To ensure more comprehensive, transparent and high-quality agreements, APEC has developed a series of model measures that serve as a reference for APEC member economies in the negotiation of FTAs and RTAs. Six of these model measures were developed in 2006 and more are planned for 2007.
In addition, APEC Leaders last November, while reaffirming their commitment to the Bogor goals and the successful conclusion of the DDA negotiations, tasked officials to prepare a study for their consideration when they meet in September this year on ways to promote regional economic integration, including a Free Trade Area in the Asia Pacific as a long term prospect. This is the first time this issue has been on the formal Leaders agenda.
Structural economic reform and trade facilitation are also high priority areas for APEC in 2007. Recognizing the need for domestic regulatory reforms in member economies to make the international business environment less complicated and more transparent, APEC is addressing behind-the-border barriers to trade and investment. This is particularly important in areas such as improving the investment environment in member economies, competition policy, public sector and corporate governance and strengthening economic legal infrastructure. These are issues of critical importance for the mining sector.
APEC's human security agenda continues to receive a great deal of attention from Leaders, Ministers and Senior Officials with terrorist activities, threats of disasters, and health pandemics posing a serious threat to regional economic health and stability. Counter-terrorism and secure trade have become a major focus of APEC in recent years. Preventing terrorist financing, improving aviation security, and defending the integrity of the food supply chain from contamination will also be tackled with the active participation of the private sector.
In addition to the threat of man-made disasters, several APEC member economies have suffered extensively in recent years from the devastation of large-scale natural disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes. As a consequence cooperation in the area of emergency preparedness is being intensified.
Increased safety and security measures carry a significant additional cost to business. Therefore, APEC members, along with their business colleagues, are working together to develop joint strategies and best practices to ensure both safety and economic efficiency and viability.
An important area of APEC's planning to ensure future economic stability and prosperity is in the area of energy security. Access to reliable sources of energy is critical for sustainable economic development. Work to promote policies and technologies that advance the development of cleaner energy and energy efficiency is also on the agenda this year. Members will continue to encourage energy investments and cross-border energy trade. Developing new and renewable energy sources and technologies will also help to ensure cleaner use of fossil fuels, boost energy efficiency and conservation, and better protect critical energy infrastructure.
Finally, I would like to turn to the issue of APEC reform, particularly as it relates to the work of the Ministers Responsible for Mining Meeting.
The 2006 Leaders Statement in Ha Noi stated that reform was a high priority and that "APEC must continue to evolve to meet new challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing environment" and that it must become more "results-oriented." Leaders therefore instructed Ministers and Senior Officials to further streamline the organization, to improve evaluation and coordination mechanisms and to develop more effective delivery mechanisms for policy initiatives.
Reforms to ensure that the organization remains relevant, effective and responsive to the needs of the region and its stakeholders will be widely discussed in 2007.
Some of the areas we will be focusing on include: strengthening the role of the APEC Secretariat, particularly to give it a research and analysis capability, which it currently lacks; and having a close look at the structure and function of the many APEC fora with a view to improving coordination among them, or, in some cases, merging some groups.
In considering the directions from APEC Leaders, one of the issues at this meeting, therefore, is how the mining sector should fit into the APEC agenda and process. While the mining sector has a greater economic impact in some APEC economies than others there is no doubt about the enormous economic importance of the mining sector to the APEC region as a whole. Indeed, some of the world's largest mineral producers and buyers are concentrated in the APEC region. Issues of sustainability are vital for the industry and for APEC's economic performance. Many of APEC's core activities such as business facilitation and capacity building are immensely important for the mining industry.
At a working level the Expert Group on Mineral & Energy Exploration and Development (GEMEED) has, in recent years, been tasked to prepare concrete action plans for APEC mining cooperation. I am also aware that GEMEED and major mining economies would like to upgrade GEMEED into a full APEC working group as opposed to remaining in the Energy Working Group. Ideas such as these need to be examined in the context of APEC's aim to streamline and rationalize the work of its constituent fora.
It is important for every APEC forum to ensure that its sectoral agenda is in line with the broader APEC agenda. If it is not, there will be a resulting perception of lack of clarity and purpose for APEC as an organization. A starting point therefore at this meeting would be to address the issue of precisely how this forum can best add value to the APEC process and the attainment of APEC's goals.
Let me close by noting that the 3rd Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Mining is the first APEC Ministerial meeting to be held in 2007. It heralds the beginning of APEC's Australia year. I wish you success and hope this meeting will produce tangible deliverables to the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in September 2007.