By Operating Free Trade and More Economic Activities: "APEC Will Take Its Objectives and Systems of The WTO," PM Badawi
ntributed to the economic development and contributed also to the prosperity of our region." - Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Dr. Thok-kyu Limb, chairman of DIPLOMACY, had an exclusive interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Busan, Korea. PM Badawi visited Busan to attend the 13th APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit Meeting held on Nov. 18~19, 2005. - Ed.
Question: Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, congratulations on your birthday on November 25! First, what is your impression APEC in Busan, Korea, and second, what is your vision of APEC in the future? Answer: The meeting was a successful meeting. We didn't even have any serious disagreements at all. That is good. We were able to come up with this integration. I am sure that the Korean President will talk about that. We want to see APEC achieve with its process over the years. APEC has contributed to build economic activities in the Asia-Pacific region. Trade volume and activities based on working bilateral relations have increased. This summit contributed to the economic development and contributed also to the prosperity of our region. At the discussions with everybody's wish for APEC, I noticed the process to continue. The APEC will take the APEC's objectives and systems of the WTO - free trade, trade liberalization, more economic activities, especially in the area of trade.
Q: The WTO issue or Doha Round was probably one of the most important issues at the meeting. We heard that some countries such as Australia and Canada have pushed for a stronger statement from APEC, like the BRICS and EU who called for more WTO's concessions in agriculture, which would break the current deadlock and move it forward. Would you have personally preferred a stronger statement on more WTO's concessions in the special accord? A: Under what we have, and the placement of commitment, we have a strong accord. The WTO meeting, with no problem, will be able to move forward the standard in culture. The issue of the United States has a new position and the commitment given by President Bush is that he stands firmly on this, which means that the issue is very much formed with the Europeans. I wouldn't believe that the millennium, especially the United States, has a new position and program to use over a certain period. What we want this meeting in Hong Kong to represent is the power movement on how much we can achieve; it is a matter for us to see.
Q: What in your view does the developing world need to do at this stage to make the Europeans move? A: If you are in the developing world, it is a very important general position that you have given, but getting more from the process. I have touched on one important point. I thought that was seen on the capacity-building. Capacitybuilding is possible and is important for the developing world which has benefited from trade liberalization. Some developing countries are not yet ready to take the full advantage of the WTO. It is perhaps that they reasoned that there will be some opposition here and there. Some concerns have been expressed regarding talking about globalization, free trade, and trade liberalization, very quickly. If a country has freedom, that means they will benefit. But if the countries do not have freedom, they will not benefit. There are many countries which are not yet members of the WTO. The WTO is not a special group starting in the club of the elite, but it is a club for many to join. If you believe that WTO stands for something in that objective, then they can help the economy to develop and prosper, by creating employment and alleviating poverty.
Q: What is the prospect of the possibility on future free trade agreements? A: We did not spend much time on that issue. We did touch about it. We heard President Bush, especially the United States position. We all agreed that this is the biggest WTO bloc certainly to move forward. I did mention that perhaps, if we try to get a decision on everything, I proved that the Hong Kong meeting will be successful. If we can all say that it is not successful, there are some respects that we can agree on report, but some will have to come in the negotiation for further discussion. At the same time, we believe that some developing countries will also prepare for us. Therefore, we want to look at all approaches in totality, what they can offer or what they expect to have. It is a matter of effective negotiations. President Bush did mention, with all his commitment, to catch up and the intention to see that the Hong Kong meeting will form to discuss more on this.
Q: How do you see APEC in the East Asian Summit? A: It would be mutually-supported. APEC and the East Asian Summit will certainly not become confrontational. There would be effects of any organization. We will be very supportive. If you see in terms of building blocs, it is part of the building blocs, with the global emergence of better economic relations and promotion of free trade and its links.
Q: What are your perspectives to APEC leaders against some dire predictions about the consequences, economic impacts, and the human rights, bird flu, etc.? A: We gave it very high priorities as something to be discussed. They told us the level of concern, the level of interest to see what we can do together. If there is anything that we can do, we can make sure that we will be able to prevent the endemic. We will exchange information or our respective leaders contributions which will make the role successful. It is an important issue that we should do that exchange. Second, there is a feeling that we have come to vaccine. No particular country should be designated as the source of the buyer of the vaccine, but we should have the vaccine. There will be others too. They have developed a vaccine that can be used in dire circumstances. Third, there is a suggestion by the Prime Minister of Canada to support the issue wholeheartedly. What they also have to establish is a fund where developed countries contribute to that fund. What is the purpose of this fund? When a particular country has a problem; in that poor country, we have a big problem. Even they have this problem, if the procedure of the birds must be destroyed, they know the poor farmers will be very reluctant. But, they will not be ready to cover it. If they have to negotiate, there must be some ways of providing compensation for the income loss necessary and how to prevent it. As a result, this can be done. I think about them ready to accept the accord on how they can compensate their farmers so that they can be able to do it. I am sure there are countries that can do this, and they don't have to worry about the need for reforming. This is important really to help the development of poorer countries, if the disease were to occur there. It is very serious. We hope that amid cooperation, we can create stability.
Q: What are your comments on the outlook for the Malaysian economy for the next year? A: We hope that the Malaysian economy will continue to do well. We are spending much more than our deficit which benefits our economy. Although we have taken off the APEC currency order, the currency is very stable and they do not have any effect on our economy. The proposal for the budget of the banks is reform activity.