Ahead of the forthcoming APEC forum meetings, Simon Montlake, in Bangkok, outlines the issues up for discussion.When the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum meet in Bangkok in October, their agenda will span a range of issues that are certain to attract intense worldwide attention. Investors in the region will be hoping to get more direction on how the countries are working towards common goals of trade and development.

Unlike in 2002, the emphasis on fighting terrorism is likely to give way to nuts-and-bolts economic issues. Thai leaders are keen to use the spotlight to play up their country’s attractions as a place to invest, and will stage a large investment mart to coincide with the main summit on October 20-21.

In September there will be a smaller, more intimate meeting of minds from around the Asia-Pacific region: the APEC Financiers Group. This forum for bankers and other commercial financiers will take place in Phuket, one of Thailand’s smarter seaside resorts, and it will be the ninth such meeting of the group. Its current chairman, Bangkok Bank president Chartsiri Sophonpanich, says the idea of the forum is to provide input from the private sector to finance ministers in APEC countries before they begin discussions in October. He is hoping for frank talks that can provide solid guidance to public officials on key financial matters.

“What we expect would be an exchange of different opinions from players in the region that will provide feedback to finance ministers,” he says. “We chose topics that will be of interest to different countries and relevant to all of them.”

Among those topics will be the strengthening of capital markets, micro-financing, asset-backed securitisation and creditors’ rights. Expert speakers will be invited to address the forum, which is also scheduled to meet Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Intra-Asian debt trading

An issue that is certain to garner plenty of discussion is the Asia Bond Fund, the $1bn fund established in June as a first step towards greater intra-Asian debt trading. Although the Asia Bond Fund is initially limited to investing in sovereign issues, bankers are mindful of opportunities further down the road as a regional bond market takes shape.

Another hot topic in Phuket will be the question of how banks can adjust their capital positions to meet the Basel II requirements. While larger banks have already begun preparation for Basel II, smaller institutions would welcome regional co-operation, says Twatchai Yongkittikul, secretary general of the Thai Bankers Association, which is helping to run the Financiers Group forum.

“Taiwan is keen to help organise training programmes (for bank employees), and I’m sure we can benefit from its expertise,” he says.

Doubts over agreement

Not everyone is convinced that APEC will be a bonanza for Thailand, arguing that the forum has turned into a glitzy talking shop that fails to deliver concrete benefits. As global trade talks continue to founder, it seems unlikely that APEC’s diverse members – from South America to Papua New Guinea – will be able to strike multilateral agreements that bring tangible results.

Indeed, Thailand has been quick to kick-start bilateral trade negotiations, rather than wait for regional or global bodies to bring down barriers. Mr Shinawatra raised the issue of a free-trade accord with the US when he visited Washington in June, while China and Thailand are working on a similar pact to launch later this year. India is also in Thailand’s sights as a trading partner with good growth potential.

But bankers insist that when it comes to financial co-operation, APEC offers an excellent chance to reach agreement on areas of mutual interest and nudge governments towards adopting new policies. “Even though some countries are at different levels of development, that is the whole purpose of APEC: to bring countries with different backgrounds together and harmonise them so there is a much wider market for everyone to participate in,” says Mr Sophonpanich.


All fields are mandatory

The Banker is a service from the Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd takes your privacy seriously.

Choose how you want us to contact you.

Invites and Offers from The Banker

Receive exclusive personalised event invitations, carefully curated offers and promotions from The Banker

For more information about how we use your data, please refer to our privacy and cookie policies.

Terms and conditions

Top 1000 2023

Request a demonstration to The Banker Database

Join our community

The Banker on Twitter