APEC promotes trade and economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. It gives us an equal voice with some of the world’s biggest economies on how to promote economic development in our region.

Chairing APEC in 2021

New Zealand will be chairing APEC in 2021, at a crucial time as the region works to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Responding to the pandemic has underlined the critical importance of New Zealand's trading networks and relationships.

For information on APEC 2021, including meeting locations and schedules see the dedicated website APEC 2021 website (external link)

About APEC

APEC stands for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Members are referred to as "member economies" because not all members are states, and because the APEC process is mainly concerned with trade and economic issues.

Who belongs to APEC

APEC is made up of 21 Pacific Rim members: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Viet Nam.

New Zealand was a founding member of APEC when it began in 1989, with only 12 members.

world map showing apec members and when they joined

Why APEC matters

Photo courtesy of APEC Secretariat www.apec.org
Photo courtesy APEC Secretariat www.apec.org

The focus of APEC’s work is connecting and integrating economies within the region so it is easier to do business within and between them. It does this by providing a forum for Leaders, Ministers and officials to meet, share experiences, and develop best practices and shared norms for trade and economic policy.

APEC helps businesses by making the rules around exporting easier. This translates into APEC helping Asia-Pacific economies to prosper, supporting New Zealand companies to grow their trade, and in turn creating jobs for New Zealanders.

It’s important to be connected

Ministers responsible for trade meeting press conference 18 May 2019 Chile
Photo courtesy APEC Secretariat www.apec.org

As New Zealanders, we know that being connected to the world and to the Asia-Pacific in particular really matters to our economic and social well-being.

The Asia-Pacific’s strong economic growth and increased demand for New Zealand products makes those links vital. For New Zealand to achieve its ambitions, it needs to have a common vision, language and understanding with other Asia-Pacific economies. We can only achieve if we are achieving alongside each other.

Graph showing APEC in the global economy - Population 38% 2.9 billion people, Trade 47% USD 22 trillion, GDP 60% USD 48 trillionImportantly APEC represents 71% of NZ’s two-way trade. In 2019, 73% of our total exports went to APEC members, while 70% of our imports came from those economies. 

Fourteen of our top 20 export markets are APEC members, including the three largest economies in the world - the United States, China and Japan. [Source: stats.govt.nz, goods and services trade by country, YE March 2019]

18 of our 19 free trade agreements are with APEC partners. 

Increasingly, New Zealanders are working overseas in either the wider Asia-Pacific region or in APEC economies, while many of the skilled workers required to keep our economy growing also come from the region.

The Asia-Pacific is New Zealand’s place. Its economies, environments, cultures and communities are connected and what happens in our region affects us all. It is this we must take care of in a fierce spirit of guardianship – Kaitiakitanga.

We can have our say

Minister for Trade Export and Growth, David Parker and Mark Talbot - MFAT
Photo courtesy APEC Secretariat www.apec.org

APEC is the primary forum New Zealand has for close economic integration across the region. It is a forum through which we can resist protectionism and reduce trade friction, not just in the Asia-Pacific but in the world at large.

We can use it to promote economic policies in APEC economies which benefit our people and our businesses.

We’re a founding APEC member

APEC was established in the late 1980s at a time of dawning realisation of Asia’s importance to New Zealand. At that time we were in the early stages of learning how to do business with Asia – New Zealand had few business connections and limited understanding of the opportunities and challenges involved.

First APEC meeting in Camberra in 1989
Photo courtesy APEC Secretariat www.apec.org

New Zealand’s membership of APEC has helped us learn the language of Asia. This was a language that developed over time through the way economies came together regularly, building trusted relationships, to approach common trade challenges. In today’s difficult times, we know that being connected to the world and to the Asia-Pacific in particular really matters to our people and our businesses.

APEC gives us an equal voice

APEC gives us an equal voice with some of the biggest economies in the world on how to promote economic development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Leaders’ Week allows New Zealand’s political and business leaders to engage directly with global leaders and ministers on an equal footing.  Throughout each year, APEC also gives New Zealand the opportunity to meet with key regional leaders, Ministers and senior officials to register a New Zealand view – an opportunity we would not otherwise have.

This is particularly valuable to New Zealand with its small and diversifying economy that is distant from its major markets.

Riripeti Reedy, Ministry for Women, @APECChile2019
Riripeti Reedy, Ministry for Women, @APECChile2019 Policy Partnership for Women and the Economy

APEC has improved competition policy law for every member economy. There is now a common understanding of trade liberalisation. New Zealand has worked hard on developing what ‘good’ looks like in free trade with APEC and the strong functioning of markets.

New Zealand was the first chair of APEC's Economics Committee, a vehicle for border and domestic policy integration, and has chaired regularly since. We are the most recent chair of APEC's Committee on Trade and Investment, which has a central role in supporting regional economic integration and trade and investment liberalisation across the region. And a New Zealander, Allan Bollard, became the first dedicated chair of APEC and then its Executive Director until 2018. In this role he continued to support the professionalisation of the Secretariat.

We hosted APEC in 1999

Bill Clinton and a kaumatua about to hongi (maori greeting) at APEC 1999
Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu and then-President of the United States Bill Clinton

New Zealand last hosted APEC in 1999. During that time, New Zealand:

  • hosted three state visits
  • launched the Closer Economic Partnership negotiations with Singapore, which ultimately led to CPTPP in 2018
  • worked to maintain momentum for new ambition in the World Trade Organisation
  • agreed to eliminate non-tariff impediments.

New Zealand was hosting APEC Leaders Week in 1999 when the violence erupted in Timor L’Este, which led to its independence. APEC leaders and foreign ministers used the opportunity of all being in the same city to respond collaboratively to the carnage in its neighbourhood.

APEC Business Travel Card

Available from Immigration New Zealand, the APEC Business Travel Card allows frequent business travellers from participating APEC members streamlined, pre-cleared access into New Zealand. 

Features include:

  • no requirement to apply for visa or entry permits
  • express immigration clearance through special APEC lanes on arrival and departure at major international airports
  • multiple entry to participating economies for a stay of up to 90 days on each visit.

Who is eligible?

APEC Business Travel Cards are available to all business people engaged in trade and investment activities who:

  • are passport holders from participating economies
  • travel frequently to conduct business activities in participating APEC economies
  • have a clear criminal record.

Apply for the APEC Business Travel Card

Get an application form or find more information about the APEC Business Travel Card at Immigration New Zealand (external link).

Email abtc@mbie.govt.nz for specific enquiries.

Travelling to New Zealand on the APEC Business Travel Card?

Find more information at Immigration New Zealand (external link)

Participating APEC members are:

Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States and Viet Nam.