APEC has played a formative role in facilitating the free flow of goods and services among member and world economies. The organization, however, remains a forum for discussing and coordinating economic cooperation and does not mandate compulsory compliance, as do formal trade agreements and organizations like the WTO. In this sense, while the list of its palpable achievements may not on the surface appear expansive and impressive, it is important to note the role it plays in stimulating discussion of liberalization, studying technical aspects of trade facilitation, and serving as an important political forum for the regular meeting of world leaders.

As evidenced by APEC’s numerous reports on the progress of the Bogor Goals9 it has certainly contributed to member economies’ reducing a range of barriers to trade, such as tariffs, restrictions on the movement of people and the laborious customs procedures. These reports also demonstrate, however, that the Bogor Goals of achieving free trade and investment among developed and developing economies by 2010 and 2020 respectively are still far from realization.

One of the key aspects holding APEC back from achieving more in terms of trade and investment liberalization is its very institutional structure. By allowing countries to voluntary opt-in to agreements, APEC is unable to use trade-offs and concessions as bargaining tools in the negotiation process. With no guarantee that painful concessions made by one member will be reciprocated by the other, there is a clear lack of incentive for agreeing to the types of expansive provisions which are more typical of other trade agreements and the WTO. The proposed FTAAP, which will elevate it to the status of a formal trading bloc, is seen by many to be the most hopeful pathway to APEC working towards the realization of the Bogor Goals.

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