Monday, May 16, 2011

Sky High at APEC

Here I sit in the fire place lounge at the Huntley building of the Big Sky Montana lodge – not really doing nothing but taking in the atmosphere – both physical and rhetorical – of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade meetings. Both are sky high.

The press aren’t allowed in until tomorrow – Tuesday – but I’ve managed to smile my way pass the guards.

I can’t really find anything out about the specifics of the negotiations – which cover a universe of issues, from trade, small and medium size enterprises, health and medical devises and procedures. But the vibes I’m getting are all positive.

Some private sector people here – who are participating in some unique public/private sessions – are pleasantly surprised that APEC officials are not talking about the same old stale stuff – tariffs, free trade agreements or DOHA. What was discussed enthusiastically by all was lively, forward-looking and overall refreshing.

I had a very enlightening interview today – which we will publish toward the end of the week – with Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance Michael Camunez and Malaysia-based SME Corp chief executive officer Hafsah Hashim on a first-ever effort to start developing APEC-wide ethical principles on a sector-by-sector basis. The first – which trade and commerce ministers are expected to approve on Saturday – is for the medical devices sector.

On Saturday, I sat all day and observed in my limited 20 foot-by-20 foot lounge with a fire place and a coffee bar.

After six hours, I gave up and headed for the Whisky Jack bar, where – not surprisingly – I spied a couple of long-time USTR friends. The bar continued to attract other USTRs – boy they are getting a lot younger or I’m getting a lot older. The talk was over wine and beer and had nothing to do with substance, except for the normal rumors that everybody in Washington wants to know about. Sorry folks, promised that I wouldn’t even blog that.

The Whisky Jack session, however, was abruptly recessed after only four beers because the USTR folk had to go practice for tonight’s Karaoki session. Apparently, USTR has come up with APEC lyrics to a song – don’t know the tune – which will be premiered tonight. There were specific instructions that I was not to be anywhere in sight or ear shot.

Maybe substance tomorrow. But the real activities – as ministers start to arrive – are not likely until Wednesday.
Jim Berger

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