SPOTLIGHT: On November 20, 2020, the heads of state and government of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) met, for the first time since the last meeting in Papua New Guinea in 2018, but only virtually because of the corona pandemic. The host was Malaysia. The 27th Summit ended with the Kuala Lumpur Declaration (see below for details).

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)


According to shoppingpicks, the APEC was founded in 1989 on the initiative of Japan and the USA as a regional forum with initially 12 member states.


Improving economic cooperation in the Pacific region. The long-term goal is to create a free trade area by 2020.

Members (21)
(see table at bottom of page)

Inhabitants and economic output

The graphic compares the population (left diagram) and the respective economic output (right diagram) of the APEC members. As of 2017, the 21 member states of APEC comprised approx.

  • 40% of the world’s population (2.89 out of 7.53 billion people)
  • 50% of world trade
  • 60% of the world’s gross domestic product (48,030 of 80,684 billion US dollars).

Belong to APEC

  • with the USA the largest economy in the world
  • with China the most populous country in the world
  • with Russia the largest country in the world

APEC Summit 2020 (virtual)

The chairmanship of APEC rotates annually among the member states. A formal structure with fixed institutions does not yet exist. The cooperation usually takes place in various committees and ministerial meetings. The sparsely staffed secretariat based in Singapore hardly makes an appearance. The highlight of APEC is the annual “informal” summit of heads of state and government.

In 2020 Malaysia hosted the summit. The heads of state and government of the 21 APEC member countries issued the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration” after the first virtual summit. Given the challenges facing the region’s economies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, APEC leaders pledged to work together to support priorities including: combating and mitigating the effects of COVID-19, improving trade and investment, Promotion of the digital economy and technology, development of innovative and integrative sustainability.

The heads of state and government have also officially presented the new “APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040” (Putrajaya is a planned city and the administrative center of Malaysia, in which the real summit in 2020 was originally supposed to take place). By 2040, leaders envision an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community that promotes the prosperity of all people and future generations.

As a reminder: In 2018, Papua New Guinea judged on 17./18. November the last real summit. For the first time in the history of APEC, the participants did not agree on a joint final declaration. The reasons were primarily the trade dispute between the USA and China, their different assessments of the future role of the WTO and the criticism of the USA and others of China’s advance in the Pacific.


At the 11th informal summit of the heads of state and government of the APEC on October 21-22, 2003 in Bangkok (Thailand), the participants reaffirmed their determination not to allow international trade and economic development to be adversely affected by the threat of international terrorism. The declaration also reaffirmed the commitment of the APEC members to the abolition of tariffs on agriculture and the conclusion of the current round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization.

A ten-year moratorium on accepting new members ended in 2007. Since then, other states have been able to apply for membership.


The global political importance of APEC bears no relation to the potential of the largest member states mentioned above. Apart from the fact that its meeting brings together the heads of government of important countries, it is (still) a relatively weak organization as a rather loose association of states, since the interests and potential of its members are too different and decisions have to be made by consensus.

After all, tariffs have been dismantled and mechanisms developed to prevent future currency crises like those of the 1990s.

APEC members table

Australia Japan Peru
Brunei Canada Philippines
Chile South Korea Russia
Taiwan* Malaysia Singapore
China (PR) Mexico Thailand
Hong Kong** New Zealand USA
Indonesia Papua New Guinea Vietnam

* Republic of China (also known as “China Taipei” or “Formosa”)
** Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of the PRC


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