Update: Canada may become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after all. Now that we are apparently considering other markets for our oil, we are also officially considering joining the TPP, which only last week was not considered to be a likely scenario. It turns out that a lot can happen over a long weekend.
Friday, November 11 It's a gathering of the leaders of some of the biggest, most important economies in the world; a collection of 21 countries that accounts for 55% of global GDP, 43% of world trade and comprises a market of 2.7 billion consumers. The leaders are among the most powerful people on the planet, including the presidents of the United States and China, the world's two largest economies. The meetings planned between political and business leaders will take place amid one of the most profound moments of global economic uncertainty in recent history.
Oh, and they're meeting this weekend. In Hawaii, the home state of U.S. President Barack Obama. Pretty big deal - but the APEC 2011 gathering in Honolulu has been surprisingly low on the world news radar so far, considering the players involved (although anything can happen as delegates start gathering today for a weekend of meetings, official dinners, bilateral talks and extravagant costumes.)
So just in case the whole thing blows up into a giant, geopolitical news storm over the next couple of days, here's a brief background on what's happening in Honolulu this weekend and why.
What's APEC? The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is the name of a forum that includes 21 member states that have coastline on the Pacific Ocean. It was established in 1989 as a way for government leaders and ministries to discuss and cooperate on issues that affect the increasingly interdependent economies of the Asia-Pacific region.
Is Canada a member? With our Pacific coastline? Heck, yes. We've even hosted an APEC summit, the 1997 gathering in Vancouver, at which leaders declared they would increase cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, agreed to focus on developing sustainability in rapidly growing cities, and signed something called the Vancouver Framework for Enhanced Public-Private Cooperation on Infrastructure. You, however, may remember it most for Sgt. Pepper, the RCMP officer who was a little bit over-zealous in his handling of protesters.
Who will be there? Prime Minster Stephen Harper for one, along with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and many others.
What are they there to talk about? The big story is something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement signed by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in 2005, but which the U.S. is hoping to expand into a major multilateral deal by joining in, along with Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam. While this expansion could make for a significant new trading bloc, it doesn't include China, the economic behemoth on the western side of the Pacific, which makes it a tad controversial in some quarters. The TPP has added a note of drama into the proceedings courtesy of Japan, which is wracked with uncertainty over whether or not to join - the country's prime minster even pulled out of a press conference yesterday at which he was to discuss Japan's role in the deal.
What about us? Is anyone talking about us? Canada is not part of the TPP discussions, apparently because other countries don't like our protectionist supply management and agricultural policies. At a briefing yesterday, government spokeswoman Sara MacIntyre said we might not even want to be part of the deal. (So there.) Otherwise, Prime Minister Harper says he's looking forward to taking part in talks that will "liberalize trade and investment [to] benefit all 21 member economies."
That's it? Prime Minister Harper was supposed to meet separately with Obama and Mexican president Felipe Calderon at the end of the summit, but a due to a helicopter crash that killed Mexico's interior minister, Blake Mora, President Calderon has pulled out of the talks. It was announced on Saturday that prime minister Harper and President Obama would meet as scheduled, without President Calderon to discuss several issues, including Obama's "Buy American" clause, the Keystone pipeline, and the proposed border perimeter deal.