Differing views on forum’s future aired


ECONOMISTS who spoke at the Fortune Global Forum yesterday hold differing views about the future of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.

Professor Lester Thurow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) felt that Apec represented too diverse a group of economies to be effective.

“Politicians, including US President Bill Clinton, had to make all these statements about free trade in 2020, because those were the words that their people wanted to hear,” he told The Straits Times at the end of the forum.

“But, none of them would be around in 2020 to account for their words,” he quipped.

Deutsche Bank Capital Markets (Asia) senior economist Kenneth Courtis, on the other hand, said that open regionalism such as that developed within Apec was what countries in this region needed.

But he said that the six-member Asean grouping should be expanded to include other South-east Asian countries to ensure that their views would be heard within Apec.

“Otherwise, individual countries might be drowned out by big powers like China, the US and Japan,” he said.

Both Professor Thurow and Mr Courtis, together with Boeing chairman and chief executive chairman Frank Shrontz, spoke earlier in a closed-door session on how to “navigate trade blocs”.

Briefing The Straits Times on the discussions, Fortune’s general editor Donald Holt said there was a consensus that trade blocs would not develop, because the pressures against them were “too great”.

But delegates expressed concern over Japan’s trade imbalance with the United States, and the falling US dollar.

Another topic of discussion was the global information highway, in which participants discussed how developments such as the Internet would affect lives.

In the session on Shaping the Corporation of Tomorrow, participants shared their experiences on how they managed the restructuring of their companies.

Finally, a more light-hearted workshop was held in which participants played games and learnt about how they had to think of other cultures when doing business in the global economy.

“They were told how you cannot just simply stay in your own mindset. You have to put yourself into other cultures,” said Mr Holt.

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