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What is APEC? He aha a APEC?

What is APEC? He aha a APEC?

APEC ensures that goods, investment and people move easily across borders. Members facilitate this trade through faster customs procedures at borders; more favourable business climates behind the border; and aligning regulations and standards across the region.

When you think of APEC you might think of Leaders' Week, where the heads of 21 economies pose for the "family photo" in shirts chosen by the host economy. But it's much more than that, and involves hundreds of meetings throughout the year.

Since its beginning, APEC’s mission has been to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region. It’s worked; average incomes have more than doubled in APEC economies since 1989 and 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty.

New Zealand was a founding member of APEC in 1989. This was a time of huge global change: The end of the Cold War, the establishment of the World Trade Organisation and the European Union, to name just a few.

Think of APEC as a space to connect and strengthen relationships, that's what really sets it apart. These connections have helped each economy lay the foundations for free trade agreements over the years, and to generate forward-thinking ideas that have benefited businesses, people and economies across the region. 

Why economies? This term is used to describe APEC members because the APEC cooperative process is predominantly concerned with trade and economic issues, with members engaging with one another as economic entities.

Some of the thousands of delegates and officials who have been a part of APEC 2021.

Connected and engaged, APEC economies help each other

APEC has grown to become a dynamic engine of economic growth and one of the most important regional forums in the Asia-Pacific. Its 21 member economies are home to about 2.9 billion people and represent approximately 60 per cent of world GDP and 48 per cent of world trade in 2018.

As a result of APEC’s work, growth has soared in the region, with real GDP increasing from US$19 trillion in 1989 to US$46.9 trillion in 2018. Meanwhile, residents of the Asia-Pacific saw their per capita income rise by 74 per cent.

The number of people in poverty has fallen from 1.4 billion in 1990 to 340 million in 2015, reducing the poverty incidence from 63.2 per cent of the population to 12.2 per cent. Nevertheless, there is more work for APEC economies to do. 

Bringing the region closer together, reducing trade barriers, and smoothing out differences in regulations have boosted trade which, in turn, has led to this dramatic increase in prosperity. Average tariffs fell from 17 per cent in 1989 to 5.3 per cent in 2018. During that same time period, the APEC region’s total trade increased over seven times — outpacing the rest of the world, with two-thirds of this trade occurring between member economies.

APEC implements a wide variety of initiatives to help integrate the region’s economies and promote trade while addressing sustainability and social equity.

APEC is a unique space. It brings representatives of economies together to discuss and debate the challenges facing our region. APEC is often called an “incubator of ideas”; member economies have the flexibility they need to discuss a wide range of diverse topics, from digital trade and regional integration, to women in the economy and inclusive growth, for example.


Fast facts about APEC 2021

  • New Zealand's host year begins in December 2020 and runs through to November 2021
  • Because of COVID-19, New Zealand will host a fully digital APEC, the first ever
  • Traditionally, hundreds of APEC events are hosted over 12 months, culminating in the APEC leaders' meeting
  • The 21 member economies have a combined population of 2.8 billion (that's 40% of the world's population)
  • More than 70% of New Zealand goods and services are exported to APEC economies.
  • They have a combined GDP of US$45 trillion, accounting for about 60% of global GDP
  • APEC economies grew by 2.3% per annum between 2011 and 2016. At the same time the rest of the world contracted by 1.6%.

Digging deeper

There are many parts to APEC, including a number of key groups and gatherings that work to promote growth and further progress in key areas. These include: 


The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) is an independent group of business leaders that advises APEC leaders on priority issues for business in the region.

ABAC’s primary function is to provide advice to APEC leaders each year on the implementation of APEC’s work programme from a business perspective. It is made up of three private sector representatives from each APEC member economy. 

Advice is given through a range of avenues including to APEC Senior Officials and directly to APEC Economy Leaders at the annual Dialogue with APEC Leaders.

CEO Summit:

  • The APEC CEO Summit is one of the Asia Pacific’s premier business forums, attracting influential CEOs from some of the largest companies in the region.
  • The summit will address the biggest challenges and opportunities of our time, providing a forum to develop solutions for the region’s future.
  • The virtual APEC CEO Summit will showcase New Zealand as a place of business inclusion, digital creativity and sophistication.

Voices of the Future:

  • APEC’s Voices of the Future summit gives young people a rare opportunity to engage with APEC decision-makers.
  • Voices of the Future provides a platform for our current and future leaders to exchange ideas on issues of importance.

Official observers: 

APEC has three official observers: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat (ASEAN), the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIF). Representatives from these groups participate in APEC meetings and have full access to documents and information related to the work of member economies, helping to track progress and provide guidance in support of APEC objectives.


The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council is a partnership of senior individuals from government, business, academia and other intellectual circles that examines policy issues for the Asia-Pacific, freely and in a private capacity. It promotes cooperation to advance economic development in the region and is guided by the following premises:

  • The respective strengths of participants can be better focused to promote the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, scientific and technological development and environmental quality in the region.
  • Trade, joint ventures, mutual aid and other forms of linkage, when developed in a spirit of partnership, fairness, respect and genuine cooperation, strengthen the foundation needed for a prosperous, progressive and peaceful Pacific region.

Its full members are: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Ecuador; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Peru; Philippines; Singapore; Pacific Islands Forum; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; and Vietnam. It also has two institutional members: Pacific Trade and Development Conference (PAFTAD); Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC).  There is one associate member: France (Pacific Territories).


The aims and purposes of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat are to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, and to promote regional peace and stability. Its 10 member economies are: Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Indonesia; Lao PDR; Malaysia; Myanmar; the Philippines; Singapore; Thailand and Vietnam.


The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is the main regional inter-governmental forum in the South Pacific. PIF addresses issues including trade, economic development, the environment and regional law enforcement, cooperation and security in the region. Members of PIF include: Australia; Cook Islands; Federated States of Micronesia; Fiji; Kiribati; Nauru; New Zealand; Niue; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Republic of Marshall Islands; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Tonga; Tuvalu; and Vanuatu.

Find out more about APEC

Visit the APEC Secretariat’s website or follow them on: 


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Join, Work, Grow. Together.
Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē.