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  • Writer's pictureIan Murphy

Taiwan’s Contribution: Tackling Climate Change in APEC’s Latest Summit

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

In this blog, we explore the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) as an intergovernmental forum, established in 1989, that fosters economic cooperation and trade liberalization among its member economies across the Asia-Pacific region. The most recent APEC forum was held on May 17, 2023, in Detroit, with the aim of embracing trade liberalization, business facilitation, economic and technical cooperation, as well as empowering youth and women. The primary focus of this forum is to generate employment opportunities in a net-zero economy. Taiwan’s participation in the recent APEC summit is a valuable step in tackling large challenges such as climate change and economic development. By participating in APEC, Taiwan gains a seat at the table and can contribute its expertise to collective decision making on regional and global issues.

United Nations defines a green economy as low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. In the context of a green economy, employment opportunities and the development of eco-friendly activities and infrastructure are driven by public and private investment. APEC’s green initiative aims to achieve several objectives, which includes the reduction of carbon emissions and pollution, the promotion of green energy, the efficient usage of resources, and the preservation of biodiversity.

The recent APEC summit serves as a pivotal component of the broader green economy initiative. In this recent forum, representatives from APEC member states shared their country’s knowledge and experiences in line with the theme of Creating New Employment Opportunities in the Era of Net-Zero Economy. This forum offers APEC members a platform to showcase their initiatives and best practices in formulating policies that foster green employment. Moreover, it encourages constructive discussions aimed at addressing the economic challenges.

Taiwan, represented by the name “Chinese Taipei,” contributed to the promotion of green jobs in this forum by promoting its green employment development strategies. By joining this forum, Taiwan is able to share its experiences with the world and contribute to collective decision making. Since Taiwan is no longer a UN member state, forms like APEC give Taiwan a seat at the table, allowing it to display its good governance, gain an international perspective on macro issues, and improve support for Taiwan’s membership in other international organizations.

APEC Accomplishments

With 21 member economies that make up nearly 50% of world trade, APEC serves as a powerful engine for economic growth and international cooperation. Between 1989 and 2018, the real GDP increased from US$19 trillion to 46.9 trillion, lifting millions of people out of poverty and creating a thriving middle class, as reflected in a 74% rise in per capita income for Asia-Pacific residents. This prosperity was fueled by bringing the region together economically, reducing trade barriers, and harmonizing regulations to boost trade. Average tariffs dropped from 17% in 1989 to 5.3% in 2018, contributing to a more than sevenfold increase in total trade within the APEC region, with two-thirds of this trade occurring between member economies.

Aside from trade promotion, APEC has scored several tangible achievements to date. The Information Technology Agreement is a free trade agreement that eliminates tariffs on information technology products, and has been adopted by 80 countries after it was negotiated by APEC members in 1996. The APEC Business Travel Card was introduced in 1997 to allow business travelers to move easily between APEC members, and is currently used by over 1 million travelers each year. The APEC Education Hubs Initiative encourages education cooperation between APEC members and has led to the establishment of over 100 education hubs. APEC demonstrates its ability to exceed expectations, not only by fostering interconnectivity between its members, but also by influencing the policies of non-member economies.

During the meeting in Detroit, the ministers collectively pledged to promote interconnectedness, innovation, and inclusiveness in trade, focusing on enhancing trade facilitation, reducing barriers, and encouraging the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises in trade. They emphasized the significance of the APEC Transportation Working Group in establishing safe, secure, efficient, and sustainable transportation systems, aiming to adopt new technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles while addressing environmental concerns. The ministers called for a transition to low and zero emissions light-duty vehicles, supporting the development and deployment of electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles. Additionally, they made a commitment to rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing their market-distorting effects and promoting responsible consumption. Reiterating their strong dedication to achieving the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, the ministers aim to foster an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040.

These successes show just how effective multilateral cooperation can be in translational issues. Even though APEC has seen success in reducing trade barriers and expanding cooperation between its member economies, there are unique challenges to addressing the creation of a global green economy.

Challenges in Building a Green Economy

APEC's strides in advancing a green economy have been noteworthy, but there remain several challenges that require attention. Chief among these challenges is the need for increased investment in green technologies by APEC economies. Such investment is essential to curbing environmental impacts and achieving a successful transition to a low-carbon economy. Another crucial aspect is the need for improved coordination among APEC economies in their pursuit of a green economy. This involves harmonizing environmental regulations, sharing best practices, and fostering collaboration in research and development. By working together, APEC can amplify their collective impact and effectively address regional environmental concerns.

Moreover, APEC must grapple with the social consequences of green growth. The shift towards a green economy could result in job losses in the traditional fossil fuel sector, and it is crucial for APEC economies to implement policies that mitigate these negative impacts. Ensuring an inclusive approach to green growth is vital to ensuring that the benefits are widely shared among all segments of society. Despite the challenges, APEC remains firmly committed to promoting a green economy. The organization has already initiated numerous initiatives aimed at tackling these obstacles, demonstrating its dedication to fostering a sustainable future for the Asia-Pacific region.

To mitigate these challenges, APEC aims to foster public-private partnerships. The private sector plays a pivotal role in promoting green jobs. International financial institutions, like the World Bank, emphasize business participation in transitioning from responsible finance to green financing. Offering financial incentives for businesses to engage in net-zero development is also encouraged. Aligning net-zero-related human resource policies with corporate responsibilities related to environmental, social, and governance practices can boost green job promotion and contribute resources for relevant research, such as competition law and supply chain due diligence. Companies, like TSMC, have already implemented green employment strategies, including skills training and labor rights.

Taiwan’s Involvement in APEC

Taiwan was represented at APEC by Minister of Transportation and Communications, Wang Kwo-tsai, who attended the 11th Transportation Ministerial Meeting. During the summit, Wang highlighted Taiwan's achievements in enhancing supply chain resilience and sustaining air and maritime transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasized Taiwan’s efforts to ensure economic growth and stability amid supply chain and transportation disruptions during the pandemic.

Taiwan's involvement in APEC is significant for a number of reasons. First, it allows Taiwan to participate in the economic and technical cooperation that APEC facilitates. This cooperation has helped to promote trade and investment in the region, and it has also helped to address regional challenges such as climate change and disaster relief.

Second, Taiwan's membership in APEC gives it a voice in the Asia-Pacific region. This voice is important, as Taiwan is a major economic and technological power in the region. Taiwan's participation in APEC allows it to share its expertise and ideas with other members, and it also allows it to influence the direction of APEC's work.

Third, Taiwan's membership in APEC helps to improve its international standing. APEC is a high-profile forum, and Taiwan's participation in it helps to legitimize its status as a major player in the Asia-Pacific region.

Taiwan’s active involvement in APEC has proven to be valuable in addressing global challenges such as climate change and economic development. APEC’s commitment to promoting a green economy and generating employment opportunities in a net-zero economy aligns with Taiwan’s efforts to advance green employment. APEC’s accomplishments in reducing trade barriers, fostering cooperation, and promoting responsible economic growth demonstrate the power of multilateral cooperation in addressing complex challenges. Nonetheless, APEC remains committed to creating a sustainable future, and Taiwan’s engagement will contribute to this vision. Through APEC, Taiwan continues to demonstrate its good governance and advance its interests on the international stage, leading to a strong mutually beneficial relationship between Taiwan and the international community.


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