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Speeches and Remarks

Keynote Address by President Yoon Suk Yeol at the APEC CEO Summit


[Unofficial Translation]

APEC Business Leaders, it is a pleasure to meet all of you here. I am delighted to see main actors of APEC at the CEO Summit today.


It is very meaningful to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting here in San Francisco, a very symbol of innovation.


In 1993, the leaders of 17 Asia-Pacific economies gathered in Seattle under the shared vision of “stability, security and prosperity” for the inaugural APEC Summit.


Since then, APEC has been expanding the spheres of its cooperation such as by declaring the Bogor Goals in 1994 to make trade and investment free and open and endorsing the Putrajaya Vision 2040 in 2020 to promote regional economic integration, the digital economy and sustainable growth.


APEC has now been reborn as the largest economic forum on the planet – in name and fact – driving economic prosperity not only in the Asia-Pacific region but around the world.


APEC’s true value has shone all the more brightly whenever a global economic crisis loomed.


When the 1997 Asian foreign exchange crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis descended upon us, APEC stepped up to be at the very forefront in safeguarding the world’s free trade order.


In the face of the global pandemic, APEC pulled upon all of its resources to support the free movement of medical supplies and key personnel.


During every global crisis, APEC has demonstrated its leadership by swiftly and ably becoming the first mover to spearhead a recovery in the global economy


Business Leaders,


The world’s economy is currently facing yet another immense challenge.


The power of connectivity is waning, and fragmentation is gaining ground in many parts of the world.


The reorientation of the global economy into regional blocs is being accelerated by the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, intensifying technological hegemony and the weaponization of resources.


The supply chain risks highlighted by the pandemic pose a tremendous threat, especially for the Asia-Pacific countries that have relied on free trade for their development.


Despite the limitless potential of the digital economy, transborder data flows and the value generated have yet to meet market expectations.


In order for the global economy to regain dynamism and continue its sustainable growth, APEC must drive the acceleration of its “connectivity.”


Today, I will present three “connectivity” challenges that we will address together with APEC business leaders.


The first is strengthening connectivity in trade, investment and supply chains.


APEC has pursued the free movement of goods and services in the region, envisioning economic integration through the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.


To this end, we have worked hard to lower trade barriers and help member economies bolster their capabilities, so that trade liberalization will bring all the members equal benefits.


At times when new challenges like the climate crisis have threatened free trade, APEC has also come up with innovative countermeasures.


The tariff reductions on environmental goods agreed upon by APEC members have evolved into an agenda of the WTO and other multilateral trading systems.


As a result of these efforts, APEC members have now come to account for half of world trade, and per capita income in the APEC members has more than tripled since the time of its inception.


APEC’s role and status as a guardian of the multilateral trading system must continue to expand going forward – especially since unstable supply chains are a matter of security for countries and indeed of survival for businesses.


Now is the time to put our heads together for more preemptive and systematic responses to enhance the connectivity of our regional supply chains.


It is imperative to devise APEC-level measures that can help members and businesses in the region develop the capabilities to respond to supply chain issues. At the same time, APEC should make the strengthening of supply-chain resilience the overarching aim of cooperation while sharing experiences accumulated from past crises, such as in the building of an early warning system.


Resilient supply chains are the key to a multilateral trading system.


Next, digital interconnectedness must be enhanced.


The world is now moving past the industrial and information revolutions into the age of deepening digitalization.


Connectivity and immediacy are crucial in the era of hyper digitalization.


Data must flow freely across borders, and the digital divide between countries must disappear.


Just as humanity created the modern concept of ownership and the order derived by freedom of contract during the Age of Exploration in the 16th century, we need a new order and new universal norms befitting the digital age, be it for domestic or international transactions.


The Republic of Korea has been at the forefront of establishing international digital trade norms; our joining of the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement between the major countries of the region this June is one example.


In September, we also announced the Digital Bill of Rights, which incorporates the five principles of freedom, fairness, safety, innovation and solidarity.


The Republic of Korea will continue to actively participate in international discussions for the establishment of digital norms.


APEC members have more diversity than any other region when it comes to their social, cultural and geographic features as well as their levels of economic development.


I believe that APEC is an optimum platform to discuss these digital norms together with the United Nations.


I look forward to great interest and active participation from all of you business leaders, so that APEC can help to establish international norms in the era of deepening digitalization.


Lastly, we need to expand exchanges between future generations within APEC.


Only when people engage in exchanges and communicate with each other will it be possible to identify innovative ideas that can generate new business opportunities and create value.


APEC with a third of its total population under the age of 24, is a very dynamic region.


Active exchanges among young people are essential if the Asia-Pacific economy is to remain connected not only in the present but also in the future.


Korea has been running a variety of education, business and culture programs to promote cooperation and exchanges among the young generations in APEC members.


We are pushing youth exchange programs for 2,023 people in both Korea and the United States. We are also significantly expanding exchange projects for the young generation in cooperation with Japan.


In addition, we are supporting working holiday programs in Canada, Australia and Japan. Also under way is a project to invite outstanding students from Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries to Korea.


APEC introduced the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) system in 1997 to promote people-to-people exchanges for trade and investment within the region, and this has garnered a favorable response.


Building upon the success of the ABTC, Korea intends to propose a Young Scientist Exchange Initiative in the region.


This will guarantee that young people who have advanced science degrees and are engaged in related research and development can move freely within the region.


I hope that APEC will discuss ways to waive visas and speed up entry and exit procedures for such specialists visiting APEC members to attend conferences and workshops and plan R&D.


Distinguished Business Leaders,


APEC, thanks to the active participation of businesspeople who have always raised new topics and spearheaded change, has now advanced and grown beyond the Asia-Pacific region to become the largest body for economic cooperation in the world.


The discussion on creating the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific – the key vision embraced by APEC – was also initiated on recommendations from the APEC Business Advisory Council.


The proposals that business leaders made at this APEC meeting – forming an APEC AI advisory group and enhancing digital literacy – are also very timely.


Businesspeople have served as a precious source of knowledge capable of devising innovative solutions whenever the global economy reaches a decisive juncture.


The true principal agents of APEC are business leaders like yourselves.


As the Chair of APEC in 2025, the Republic of Korea wants to see businesspeople succeed in whatever they do and will work closely with you in preparing to host the 2025 APEC Leaders’ Meeting.


I hope that this CEO Summit will prove to be a historic forum that marks a milestone as APEC prepares to embark on its next 30 years.


I would like to express my gratitude once more to the U.S. National Center for APEC, the Private Sector Host Committee Co-Chairs and the business leaders who have made this meaningful opportunity possible today. Thank you.