Video: The Case For Expanding APEC Membership

In this video, Wendy Cutler, Mari Elka Pangestu, Matthew J. Matthews, Juan Francisco Raffo, and Alex Parle discuss expanding APEC membership at Asia Society in New York on December 14, 2015.

As the Asia Pacific region continues to be challenged by a sluggish global economic climate, the outcomes of collaborative high-level meetings like last month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in the Philippines are increasingly influential.

During a panel discussion on Monday, December 14, at Asia Society in New York, Wendy Cutler, vice president and managing director of Asia Society Policy Institute, was joined by panelists Mari Elka Pangestu, trade economist and visiting professor at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, Matthew J. Matthews, senior official for APEC in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the U.S. State Department, Juan Francisco Raffo, Peru’s APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) representative and ABAC 2016 chair, and Alex Parle, executive vice president of the National Center for APEC (NCAPEC) to examine the unique nature of cooperation among member economies and why expanding the APEC network would help tackle various regional issues.

“APEC does succeed because it intimately brings together the business community with the government,” Matthews said. "With collaboration in mind, a case can be made for continued expansion of the group."

Though the APEC group already represents 21 economies, other major economic powers, like India, are not included in the annual talks in an official capacity.

“The idea of adding membership is always discussed,” Pangetsu said, suggesting that non-members participate through other channels as a guest or an observer during the summit. “We have to recognize [that] not including these large important countries in Asia and Latin America is missing out a whole lot of the Asia Pacific.”

“Economies that are serious about joining APEC at a future date really would be well advised to take opportunities to have their officials go in, see how APEC actually functions, and see whether or not the joint general commitment to free and open trade liberalization matches their own policy settings and whether they can work effectively and productively in that environment,” Matthews added.

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Michelle FlorCruz is a Content Producer at Asia Society. She was previously a reporter for, focusing on stories relating to business and culture in China and other areas of Asia.