Marcos flies to US again for APEC: Why Filipinos should care

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 15) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew to the United States on Tuesday for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting. What will Filipinos gain from this summit?

The chief executive confirmed in August that he would participate in this year’s APEC events set in San Francisco, California from Nov. 13 to 17.

“This will be my third trip to the US since I assumed office,” Marcos said at that time.

As critics have questioned Marcos’ spending for his foreign trips, is joining in such a leaders’ meeting worth every penny?

READ: Lawmaker flags Marcos' 'revenge travel' expenses

READ: Marcos: I see overseas trips as ROI

CNN Philippines takes a look at why APEC may be crucial to achieving the Philippines’ economic goals.

What’s APEC?

Founded in 1989, APEC has expanded its network to 21 member economies, which work together to boost trade in the region. The Pacific Rim states represent about 62% of the world’s gross domestic product, the organization said on its website.

Here are the members:

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

How does it help the region?

Since its establishment, the region’s growth ballooned to $52.8 trillion in 2021 from $19 trillion in 1989, as member economies worked to slash tariffs, reduce trade barriers and smooth difference in regulations.

APEC said that as of 2021, average tariffs dropped to 5.3% from 1989’s 17%. The region’s total merchandise trade also witnessed a spike, growing by more than nine times.

Some of the initiatives launched were the Trade Facilitation Action Plan, which targeted streamlining customs procedures, as well as improving logistics and transport networks.

Aside from trade, APEC has widened its focus to include enhancing social equity, local business environment, renewable energy, digitalization, and environment.

Why is engaging with international counterparts important, especially in trade?

The Department of Trade and Industry previously said that the Philippines was exporting electronic products, woodcrafts and furniture, manufactured goods, and machinery and transport equipment to APEC member countries.

Its major trading partners within APEC include Japan, the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea.

Boosted participation in the global supply chain provides growth opportunities as this triggers more productivity in key industries and the creation of more jobs for people, subsequently accelerating the local economy’s expansion.

High employment rates, or more people with work, would mean that consumers have the financial capacity to spend on goods and services. In turn, businesses will realize growth and hire more employees to support the demand in the market.

What could be expected at the APEC 2023?

Aside from engagements on trade and investments, being closely watched is an expected bilateral meeting of the leaders of the world's two largest economies and strategic rivals.

The White House earlier said that US President Joe Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit.

Tensions have been rising between the US and China as they compete for influence in Asia.

And as in previous APEC summits, discussions may likely not be confined to economic cooperation.

US senior official for APEC Matt Murray told Voice of America that challenges including the conflict beween Israel and Hamas, could be an area of discussion.

What will Marcos highlight at the summit?

Despite criticisms, Marcos was confident that his trips abroad, meeting foreign leaders and business executives, would eventually provide a return on investments.

For this year’s APEC, the chief executive earlier said that he would want to tackle possible solutions that align with the Philippines’ climate goals, as well as the government’s target to make the country an upper middle-income economy by 2025.

In August, the president expressed optimism that the Philippines could reach upper-middle income economy status as his administration ramps up efforts to entice more foreign investments and make the country more aggressive in commerce.

Marcos has also been reiterating his call for world leaders to address threats brought about by climate change, as he said the Philippines was “regarded as probably one of the most, if not the most, vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change.”